The U.S. recorded music business has been in steep decline over the past decade. Compared to ten years ago, U.S. recorded music sales (in 2009 dollars per capita) in 1999 ($71) was nearly three times greater than the corresponding figure ($26) in 2009. In gross nominal terms, music sales declined 46% from 2000 to 2009. These statistics are calculated from Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) shipment estimates. They concern reported net shipments valued at estimated list prices.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics on the sound recording industry differ considerable from the RIAA’s, but also show a large decline. According to the Census Bureau’s annual and quarterly services reports, employer firms classified as engaged in “integrated record production and distribution” had a 27% decline in nominal revenue from 2000 to 2009. The underlying statistics have different coverage and different potential biases than the RIAA data. The Census data corroborate the big-picture view from the RIAA estimates.
Census Bureau figures for performing arts revenue indicates that artist and performers have done well relative to firms producing sound recordings. Among independent artists, writers, and performers organized as a firm with at least one employee, aggregate firm revenue rose 67% from 2000 to 2009. Apparently the added value of media production has declined. Put differently, value has shifted from media artifacts to the creative symbolic producers. That’s consistent with the growth of low-cost, highly effective new media channels.