A couple of noteworthy things have happened in the music streaming world this week. First, streaming giant Spotify came to a new licensing agreement with record label giant Universal. Spotify will notably limit some albums to its paid tier for two weeks at a time, but singles will still have no restrictions, and Universal will reportedly charge less in royalty fees as part of the arrangement.
Second, Kanye West’s "The Life of Pablo" became the first album to go platinum in the US through streams. It’s been streamed more than 3 billion times since its release in February 2016.
Spotify and Kanye are two titans in their fields, but the news points to a trend: Streaming is the new normal for how Americans listen to music. If the codependent nature of Spotify and Universal’s agreement isn’t enough, this chart from Statista should make it clearer: According to the RIAA, streaming brought in more than half of the US music industry’s revenue in 2016.
This comes after Nielsen said earlier this year that on-demand streaming had generated more revenue than digital album and track sales for the first time in 2016. Whether Spotify or music labels can make sustainable profits off streaming is another question, but it’s clearer than ever that this is the bed that’s been made for them.