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Five Takeaways From the 2023 IFPI Global Music Report

As revenue growth slows in the developed world, AI makes executives nervous, China surges to No. 5 and all eyes turn to Africa's massive potential.

LONDON — An eighth consecutive year of growth is undoubtedly great news for the music business — especially for anyone who worked in the industry during the near-decade of decline brought on by rampant piracy and falling CD sales. But this year’s IFPI “Global Music Report” also demonstrates a slowing rate of growth across all formats and in nearly all established markets. 

Here are five takeaways from this year’s report:

Growth Slows Down 

Total recorded music revenues climbed to $26.2 billion, up 9% in 2022, which, although impressive, is half of 2021’s growth, when revenues were up 18.5%. Paid-for streaming subscription revenue rose 10.3% to $12.7 billion in 2022, compared with a 21.9% year-on-year jump in 2021. 

Total streaming (including paid subscription and advertising-supported) was up 11.5% to $17.5 billion, versus a rise of 24% the prior year. 


Physical format revenue climbed 4%, compared to 16% in 2021, while music sales in the world’s three biggest markets — the United States, Japan and United Kingdom — all grew by around 5% last year, compared with double-digit gains for the U.S. and U.K. in 2021 (+22.6% and +13.2% respectively) and a rise of 9.3% in Japan.

IFPI attributed the slowing to 2021’s exceptional growth, which it said was partly fueled by a post-pandemic bounce back in music consumption, and execs at a London launch event Tuesday said they were confident the market was not about to plateau.

“I do think there are pockets of established markets where there is an opportunity to grow,” said Simon Robson, head of Warner Music Group’s international recorded music operations outside the U.S. and the U.K. He cited France as a major music market where streaming subscription penetration rates remain under 20%. “The challenge for today is how we better monetize other forms of music consumption,” he added, noting that “it would help if music subscription pricing could reflect the realities of inflation, which, as we’ve seen with video streaming services, have been putting up their prices quite significantly.” 

When Robots Take Over

The future role that artificial intelligence (AI) will play in the record business was raised several times at the launch event, with executives keen to highlight the technology’s potential for commercial growth, as well as some of the risks and challenges it brings. Some executives saw potential benefits in using AI to better analyze and understand fan engagement trends and artist discovery (something which platforms and music companies are already doing) and optimizing technical aspects of music production, including immersive sound. 


On the flip side, execs issued a stark warning about human artistry being devalued at the expense of technology. AI developers, they said, could fail to respect the rights of creators by using artist recordings to generate new content without authorization – a threat that Michael Nash, executive vp, chief digital officer at Universal Music Group, said he placed “at the top” of industry issues that need to be addressed. “We need to work very hard to define new models so that we can enable generative AI without looking away from what is essentially going to be wholesale hijacking of the intellectual property of the entire creative community,” Nash wrote in IFPI’s “Global Music Report.”  

Streaming May Dominate, But Physical Is Far From Dead 

Having enjoyed a post-pandemic renaissance in 2021 — when sales of CDs increased for the first time this millennium and overall physical sales grew 16.1% — physical format revenue continued to be surprisingly resilient last year, rising 4% to $4.6 billion. It was the second consecutive year of growth for the format, once considered dead. Almost half (49.8%) of those global revenues came from Asia, where the humble CD remains a popular music purchase, particularly in South Korea and Japan, the region’s largest music market and world’s second biggest behind the U.S. 


Vinyl revenues’ upward trajectory also continued, rising 17.1% over 2021, and while global CD sales slipped 0.4% year-on-year (IFPI didn’t provide financial values for CD or vinyl income), physical revenues still accounted for 17.5% of the overall recorded music market last year. That’s just under what ad-supported streams generate for labels and rights holders (representing 18.7% of global sales) and more than the combined haul from sync, performance rights and digital downloads. 

All Eyes Turn Towards Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa overtook the Middle East and North Africa as the fastest growing region in 2022, with music sales rising almost 35% year-over-year, reports IFPI. Driving that growth was South Africa’s thriving music industry, Africa’s biggest market, which climbed by more than 31% last year, compared to modest 2.4% growth in 2021. 

Nevertheless, the challenge of converting users of ad-based music services to paid subscription remains a considerable one, said Temi Adeniji, president of Warner Music Africa, with South Africa having around 4 million paid subscribers out of a population of nearly 50 million people. Adeniji said the burgeoning global popularity of Amapiano, a genre which originated in South Africa, was already producing crossover hits in markets like Nigeria. She predicts “an infusion of Amapiano elements” into other international music scenes over the next few years to further drive the region’s development as a key music territory. 

China Climbs to Become a Top-Five Music Power  

For years, music executives have talked up China — the world’s most populous country, home to 1.4 billion people, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics – as a huge music market in waiting. In 2022, that potential was finally realized with China usurping France (a long-time mainstay in the upper echelon) as the fifth-biggest music market worldwide with revenues of $1.2 billion, up 28.4% year-on-year, according to IFPI. That’s on the back of 30% growth in 2021, when China was the world’s sixth-biggest music market. 


The dominance of local streaming services QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music, which are all owned by China-based Tencent Music Entertainment (TME, a partner in Billboard China), means that Western and international acts rarely feature on China’s many domestic charts, which includes some run by China’s state-owned broadcaster. But the popularity of domestic pop stars like Jay Chou, Yisa Yu, Mao Buyi, Zhou Shen and Jackson Wang is now rapidly driving subscription adoption in a country rife with piracy only a decade ago. TME’s most recent company filings report 85.3 million paying music users as of the third quarter of 2022.