Streaming up, downloads down: the state of music according to MRC Data – just don’t expect the dance music community to benefit from it!

MRC Data have just released a new report in the past few days, analysing trends on in the world of music. I’ve downloaded the whole report and found it quite fascinating reading – and although the report largely deals with the USA, I suspect a lot of it applies to the UK too.

Here’s the bit I found most fascinating at all – and it isn’t the revelation that vinyl sales increased by 108.2% in the USA last year. More on that in a minute. No, it’s the section about the Japanese market – who have stubbornly stayed loyal to physical means like CDs and vinyl whilst the rest of the world embraced digital. It looks like this trend could be changing.

Physical sales in Japan fell 9% between 2019 and 2020, whilst streaming revenues increased by 27% in the same period. It also reveals 64% of Japanese listeners use free streaming services. The industry might welcome this – all that vinyl is expensive to press, distribute and market. But as someone well aware of streaming’s derisory payouts, I can’t say I share their enthusiasm.

Streaming is up, downloads are down and physical sales are up. But anyone thinking this is good news if you’re into dance music had better think again. For starters, the dominance of the majors and the lack of vinyl pressing plants mean that waiting times to get your music pressed onto wax are the longest they’ve ever been.

Also, the first generation of dance music producers had their work on vinyl. Not just because it was the way DJs worked at the time, but because remixes were massively in demand in the 1990s. Sales of vinyl counted when it came to getting songs in the top 40, so drafting in the likes of Masters At Work, Love To Infinity, Frankie Knuckles and so on to make house mixes made sense.

Nowadays? The artists are still dominant on vinyl, but those remixers are nowhere to be seen…