IT WAS an eventful summer in the business of streaming music. Taylor Swift and other artists attacked YouTube over rampant free streaming. Frank Ocean and Katy Perry cut exclusive deals with Apple Music, to the dismay of executives at Spotify, a Swedish rival. Behind the scenes, Pandora, a radio-like service, and Amazon, an e-commerce giant, stepped up their efforts to take on Spotify and Apple. Then last month Spotify began talks to buy SoundCloud, another streaming firm.
All this drama obscures two emerging realities. The first is that subscription streaming is now the future of the music business. The industry suffered a catastrophic collapse in sales from 1999 onwards before beginning to recover last year. Selling music to own, whether via iTunes downloads or CDs, is still a declining business globally.
But American record labels and music publishers are now on track for a second consecutive year of growth. Recent reports on sales of music from Europe, where some countries are experiencing double-digit increases in revenues, suggest that the recovery will also continue in other parts of the world.