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Warner Music Says Streaming Revenue Has Passed Downloads, and It Wants More

The music industry's stakes are higher in the streaming business.

Vjeran Pavic
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Here’s another sign that the music industry has shifted from selling songs to selling subscriptions: Warner Music Group says that last quarter, streaming music revenue passed revenue from selling downloads. It’s the first time a big music label has hit that milestone.

Streaming revenue from the company’s recorded music unit, generated by companies like Spotify and YouTube, grew 33 percent in Q2, Warner CEO Stephen Cooper announced during the company’s earnings call. Warner says digital revenue grew 7 percent overall — which means download sales from outlets like Apple’s iTunes decreased during the same period.

The news comes as the big music labels, including Warner, are pushing Spotify and YouTube to pull back on the free music they let users stream and concentrate more on paid subscriptions. That syncs up with the pitch Apple is making for its upcoming subscription service, which only provides a limited sample of free music.

“The rate of this growth has made it abundantly clear that in years to come, streaming will be the way that most people enjoy music,” Cooper said in a statement at the beginning of the call. “We’ll continue to collaborate with our streaming partners to expand their businesses, and more importantly, to ensure that copyright owners, artists and songwriters receive appropriate value for their work.”

Warner has made a point of licensing its music to a variety of digital platforms in the last year, including Snapchat, Vessel and Interlude.

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