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Here’s why the music industry is celebrating again — and here’s why the music industry is still in mourning

Do you like your streaming glass half-full or half-empty? We have you covered.

Singer Cardi B, performing at Warner Music’s pre-Grammy party
Cardi B, performing at Warner Music’s pre-Grammy party
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Warner Music Group

The Grammy awards are Sunday night. The music industry has spent the last week in New York City, celebrating.

They have a lot to toast: Spurred by streaming, people are paying for music again, and retail sales are climbing. Spotify, which brought on-demand, ad-free streaming subscriptions mainstream, is set to go public this spring, and might be worth $20 billion. Universal Music Group, the world’s largest label, might be worth more than that.

If you bet on the music industry’s recovery in the past few years, you are doing well. Here’s the party in a chart form, which tracks U.S. retail sales. A worldwide chart would show similar lines. Note that these numbers end at 2016, but once we get last year’s numbers, the streaming spike will be even more pronounced — sales were up 48 percent in the first half of 2017:

And, also, because we can, here’s what the music industry looks like when you take the long view, back to 1999, when the industry was at its peak and people were still buying compact discs. We know what happened after that: Napster, iTunes single sales, all-you-can stream music from YouTube and many more reasons not to spend $15 for a collection of songs.

If you want to, you can also call this chart the “Here’s Why Lots of People Are Taking Uber X, Not Uber Black, to the Post-Grammys Parties on Sunday.” Or, more relevant to people outside the music industry, a reminder that digital disruptors do an excellent job at tearing down old industries, but often don’t replace the value they destroyed.

That’s a bummer note to go out on. Here’s something more upbeat:

This article originally appeared on

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