2013 was an interesting year for the ever-evolving music industry. Despite colossal hits like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” track sales decreased by 6 percent, and overall album sales decreased by a shocking 8 percent, according to year-end data from Nielsen SoundScan.
This is the first year digital music sales have dropped since the iTunes music store launched in 2003.
But not all the news was bad for the music industry; streaming services – like YouTube, Spotify and Pandora – increased by 32 percent, the revenue equivalent of $59 million in sales, according to the same SoundScan data.
The music streaming industry had about 29 million subscribers worldwide at the end of 2013, and it is forecast to jump to 191 million by 2018, according to ABI Research. If current trends continue, streaming services will soon overtake downloadable music in terms of revenue.
The exploding music streaming market has become crowded with a growing flock of unique services. Google Music, Beats by Dre and Last.fm are just a few of the multitudinous services attempting to snag a piece of the growing pie. According to a recent survey by NPD Group published by Bloomberg Businessweek, Pandora seems to have a slight edge on the competition.
More survey respondents reported listening to Pandora within the last week than any other music streaming service – 70 percent of those surveyed.
But Pandora’s reign may be slowly coming to an end.
“I used to use Pandora. I don’t really anymore – I feel like its slowly going out of style,” junior Spanish education major Justin Berard said. “I like Spotify because you can pick the exact songs you want and you can make playlists, but I don’t pay for the premium service.”
Like Berard, most Spotify listeners do not subscribe to the premium service – but that may soon change.
On Tuesday, March 25, Spotify announced an interesting attempt to rope in more young subscribers.
Instead of the standard $9.99 a month subscription fee for Spotify’s ad-free Premium service, U.S. collegians now get a half-price discount. For $4.99 a month, student Spotify subscribers will receive access to Spotify’s ginormous 20 million song library, as well as downloadable playlists for offline listening and improved sound quality.
Whether college students will take Spotify’s bait is anyone’s guess – but one thing is certain: in the age of free and easy streaming services like YouTube and Grooveshark, Spotify has some seriously stiff competition to contend with.