How do people listen to music?

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

How people are listening to music

Between 1877 and now, people have consistently innovated new ways to consume music more conveniently and efficiently. We have gone from tinfoil sheets reproducing barely audible sounds, to having nearly any recording ever made available at a moments notice in high quality. Who knows what new options might come in the next 10, 20, maybe even like 5 years. Whatever the future may look like, here is a little glimpse into how people are listening to music now.

CD's and Vinyl

According to the 2017 RIAA Revenue Statistics, physical sales only showed a modest decrease of 4% in 2017. This is primarily due to the resurgence of vinyl which saw a 10% increase, and no thanks to CD sales which fell 6%. It seems like the numbers for 2018 are moving in the same direction, especially with Vinyl considering this past record store day on April 21 was the biggest to-date with 773,000 albums sold in the U.S. and 60,000 sold in the U.K. For the first time since 2011, the 2017 numbers on physical units actually outperformed digital downloads.

Digital Downloads

Digital downloads have been going way down. Revenue from this medium fell 25% in 2017, and has been on a rather steady decline for the last 5 years. In fact, there are even rumors of Apple completely ditching iTunes as early as 2019. The claims that Apple would ditch iTunes as soon as next year, and that they would also migrate iTunes users to Apple Music seem very unlikely. With the massive trend moving towards streaming services, though, the thought of Apple having at least started this conversation does not seem completely out of the question.


All in all, streaming services take the cake as the go-to option for people's music listening. Streaming services made up for 65% of the music industry's growth in 2017. Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music have all played a role in that growth. Spotify - although they are projecting less growth than last year - is still expecting to go from 70 million paid users to over 90 million in 2018. Apple Music is expected to get up to 40 Million this year, and also just signed a huge deal with Ed Sheeran to debut his new documentary "Songwriter" exclusively. Although Amazon has not released their exact subscriber count, they claim it is in the tens of millions, and they continue to dominate a niche with The Echo and the "voice-first approach" they take to music streaming


In 2017 people were listening to an average of 32.1 hours of music each week. Listeners paid over $8.7 billion to fulfill their cravings for music. This is a 16.5% increase from the previous year - an increase that has been unparalleled for over two decades. With streaming services adding millions of new subscribers and record-hitting record store days, 2018 doesn't show many signs of slowing down. If you're a musician out there reading this please keep writing and recording, because people are definitely listening.

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