The latest revenue figures from the music industry tell us that we’ve entered a new era: the era of interactive streaming. Interactive streaming music services — Spotify, Apple Music, Napster, Deezer, Tidal, etc. — now account for the majority of recorded music industry revenue and are growing at better than 50% per year. We’re now in the fifth era of recorded music, after the eras of vinyl, tape (8-tracks and cassettes), CDs and music downloads.
What the revenue numbers tell us about the previous era — the era of downloads — is just as interesting as what they tell us about the future. Back in the mid-2000s, music downloads were the birth of the digital revolution. But the numbers say that the download era is likely to go down in history as a brief glitch — a transitional phase between physical products and cloud-based music that did the industry no favors at all.