The most ominous sign however, is that total music sales fell by 2.5% from 2009. Even digital sales were somewhat stagnant as they inched up by only 1% over the previous year (which amounted to 1.17 billion downloads). As a comparison, 2009 was up 8% over 2008, and 2008 was up a whopping 27% over 2007.
So why has digital music's growth slowed? It's entirely possible that it's because the increasing use of free streaming sources like YouTube and Pandora to listen to music. If that's the case, it sets the stage for the age of subscription music, as consumers become more comfortable with streaming instead of owning. The music industry has hungered for subscription music, and this may be the year that it finally becomes more widely adopted.
That being said, a big part of subscription appears to depend upon whether the European Spotify service launches in the States. Spotify is still having a problem obtaining licensing agreements from the major labels, and some doubt if that will ever happen, and that prevents it appearing in the US. Of course, the moment iTunes offers subscription (and there's no indication this is imminent), so goes the music world.
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