Think piracy is killing the music industry? This chart suggests otherwise.

October 7, 2013

For more than a decade, the recording industry has been complaining that online copyright infringement is devastating the music industry. And it's true that the revenues of conventional record labels has plunged in recent years.

But if you look at the bigger picture, things don't look so grim:


(London School of Economics Media Policy Project)

That's a chart from a recent study by researchers at the London School of Economics. The orange line is the one that everyone talks about: sales of recorded music are falling off a cliff. But fortunately, that's not the only way musicians can make money. Concert revenues — the green line — have soared in the last 15 years. Other sources of revenue have also grown robustly.

To be sure, the industry hasn't enjoyed the strong growth it saw in previous decades. Revenues are down slightly since the peak about a decade ago. But there are still plenty of opportunities to earn a living making music fans love.

Update (October 10): The recording industry disputes the data underlying this chart, arguing that it double-counts some of the revenue in the "publishing" category. The Recording Industry Association of America estimates that music industry revenues fell by 27 percent between 2001 and 2012.

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Andrea Peterson | October 7, 2013