IFPI states that paid streaming accounted for 37 percent of total recorded music revenue with revenues from subscription and ad supported streaming services combined totaling $8.9 billion, representing almost half (47 percent) of all record label income.
The format's increased popularity was enough to offset a 10 percent fall in physical sales, which totaled $4.7 billion in trade revenue and made up around a quarter (24.7 percent) of the total market. Bucking the downward trend, physical sales actually grew in India, Japan and South Korea, although the majority of markets experienced a sharp drop in CD sales. Download sales also continued to tumble, down 21 percent to $2.3 billion, representing over 7 percent of the total market.
Overall digital sales across paid streaming, free streaming and downloads came to $11.2 billion, crossing the $10 billion barrier for the first time and accounting for 59 percent of total recorded music revenues, reports IFPI. Digital now makes up more than 50 percent of revenue in 38 markets.
"Four years of growth has completely changed the industry," said IFPI chief executive Frances Moore at the report's launch in London. "The potential and the vision is so much different because where you've got growth, you can invest. When the growth wasn't there, it was a question of just getting by and keeping the industry going on a day-to-day basis."
Moore said the growth in sales was driven by great artists and the "commitment, passion" and investment of record labels in talent. "We're on a really exciting global journey," she added, pointing to strong growth in North America, Latin America and Asia. "The potential is huge and with the growth of the industry that potential can be realised," said Moore.
Breaking IFPI's figures down on a regional basis, sales in North America rose by 14 percent, with streaming income rising by over 33 percent year-on-year and physical falling by 22 percent. Europe reported far more modest growth of 0.1 percent, reflecting the contrasting fortunes of its major markets. Germany, for instance, saw sales fall by just under 10 percent. In contrast, the U.K. and Nordic markets like Sweden and Norway all reported growth.
As per previous years, Latin America was the fastest-growing region, recording an almost 17 percent rise in sales with Brazil and Mexico performing particularly strongly (both up around 15 percent). Chile and Columbia also saw notable gains.
The music market in Asia and Australasia climbed by almost 12 percent to become the second-largest region for combined physical and digital revenue, partly fueled by an 18 percent rise in music sales in South Korea and the global success of domestic acts like BTS and BLACKPINK.
Across all markets, performance rights revenue grew by just under 10 percent to $2.7 billion, representing 14 percent of the total market. The global sync market also grew, climbing just over 5 percent and maintaining its 2.3 percent share of all recorded-music revenues.
In terms of the world's biggest music markets, the U.S. retains its long-held position at number one, followed by Japan. The U.K moves into third place, overtaking Germany. France remains fifth and South Korea is sixth. Having broken into IFPI's top ten global rankings for the first time last year, China is now the seventh largest market internationally with around 33 million subscribers to streaming services. The rest of the top ten is made up of Australia, Canada and Brazil.
In February, IFPI named Drake as the world's best-selling recording artist of 2018 following the success of his fifth studio album, Scorpion. The rapper was followed by South Korean boyband BTS in second place and 2017 recipient Ed Sheeran in third. The year's biggest selling album worldwide was The Greatest Showman soundtrack, which sold 3.5 million copies, followed by BTS' Love Yourself: Answer.
Joining Frances Moore at the report launch, held at the Soho Hotel in London, were Stu Bergen, CEO, international and global commercial services, Warner Music Group; Stu Bondell, EVP business and legal affairs, international, Sony Music; Adam Granite, executive vice president, market development, Universal Music Group; and Concord COO Glen Barros.
"There is definitely an air of confidence returning to the business, but I think that's confidence without complacency," noted Bergen. He cautioned that reinvesting label profits back into the industry was "the only way of future proofing the business" and pointed to the recent Warner Music acquisitions of Songkick, EMP and Uproxx.
"None of these acquisitions would have been possible 5 or 6 years ago before the return to growth," said Bergen. "As opposed to playing defense, we're able to really drive the business forward."
"We now have foundations in place for legitimate markets in many places of the world. The task for the industry now is to move consumers in the high potential markets to licensed services," added Sony Music's Bondell. "We're seeing now, in a streaming world, that the global consumer is much more open than ever before to non-English language repertoire. It's really exciting to be able to say that, for the first time in our history, today a hit can really come from anywhere," he stated.
"More music is being enjoyed by more fans around the world than we ever imagined," echoed Universal's Adam Granite. "We're seeing a growth in local repertoire everywhere in the world. It's fueled by investment, but also the increased ability for artists to connect directly with fans. The ability for artists to now find a global audience is easier than ever before."
That global growth is also having a positive impact on the independent sector, said Concord's Glen Barros. "We're seeing new entrants to the business. We're seeing old and established independents grow and flourish. We're seeing a lot more investment in the market," he told invited guests and journalists.
"When you think about the music ecosystem, independent [labels] and the independent sector is where a lot of innovation and creativity has come from," continued Barros. "What will hopefully emerge from all of this -- and what [we're already] seeing is new markets open up… companies new and old take more chances. And ultimately it leads to greater creativity and a greater amount of music finding its way into peoples' lives."