Music sales rebound here after years, thanks to digital wave

Music sales rebound here after years, thanks to digital wave

FOR the first time in five years, total music sales in Singapore increased last year, with industry players pinning their hopes on new streaming entrant Apple Music - slated to launch here tomorrow - to grow sales even more.

Total music sales increased by 4.7 per cent from 2013 to last year to reach US$13.6 million (S$18.4 million), based on data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), a Swiss-based global trade organisation.

Even though physical sales - such as for CDs - continued to drop, falling by 24.4 per cent to US$3.4 million, the 33.3 per cent spike in digital music sales to US$7.2 million was enough to pull up overall music sales for the first time since 2010.

In fact, digital sales have accounted for most music sales at some record labels. Lim Teck Kheng - marketing director for Singapore and Malaysia at one of the largest labels, Universal Music - told My Paper that about 60 per cent of Universal's music sales in Singapore came from digital music, with the remainder from physical music.

Music industry insiders attributed the jump in digital sales to the growing awareness and availability of digital music services here, notably streaming services in which consumers listen to digital tracks played online through their electronic devices.

Mr Lim said consumers have more options for digital music services than in the past, such as KKBox - which launched here in 2013 in partnership with StarHub - and iPhone-maker Apple's iTunes music store, which launched here in 2012.

There is also Deezer, which launched here in 2012 and partnered M1 in 2013, and Singtel's AMPed, which has been available since 2009.

Ang Kwee Tiang, IFPI's regional director for Asia, said that consumers may not have been aware of existing music streaming services earlier due to a lack of publicity. "Spotify was launched mid-2013; thus, last year was its first full year of service in Singapore," he added.

Revenue from subscription streaming services - such as the paid version of Spotify - made up the bulk of digital sales last year at about US$2.6 million, up 70.9 per cent from 2013.

This was followed by ad-supported streams - free versions of streaming services with ads - whose sales increased by 91.9 per cent to hit about US$1.5 million last year.

Some music industry players hope this uptrend will be boosted by Apple Music.

Said Colin Goh, managing director of local independent music label Ocean Butterflies Music: "Looking at iTunes' branding and influence in the music scene, we believe that Apple Music will be able to achieve the same results (in boosting sales)."

In 2013, digital music download sales rose by about 50 per cent to hit about US$2 million, a jump that music industry players then said could be due to iTunes' launch here in 2012.

As of press time, pricing for Apple's new streaming service here is not known. But in the United States, it costs US$9.99 a month, similar to other subscription-based streaming services.

Why is streaming popular? One reason could be the convenience it offers. Said auditor Daniel Yam, 26, who has subscribed to Spotify since late 2013: "It's easier to create playlists (than those for downloads) and I can access them from multiple platforms such as my phone and computer."

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