Global Music Revenues, Music Streaming and The Global Music Value Gap

9 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2019

See all articles by George Robert Barker

George Robert Barker

Australian National University; Wolson College, University of Oxford; Law and Economics Consulting Associates Ltd

Date Written: December 10, 2018


Large technology companies have for some time claimed a “golden age” for creativity has resulted from expanded copyright law exceptions facilitating the digitisation of content (e.g. music, film and books) and the spread of the Internet over the past 20 years. This will be referred to as the “golden age” hypothesis.

More recently it has also been claimed that the growth of music streaming has created a more vibrant and growing market in recorded music after years of decline.

This paper reviews global recorded music industry revenues to assess both the golden age claims of the large technology companies, and suggestions that growth of music streaming are a sign that the industry has overcome a period of adjustment to the digital age.

The analysis in this paper suggests both the golden age hypothesis, and the notion that music streaming may have solved the value gap problem, are wrong. The analysis of global recorded music revenues from 1999-2017 presented in the paper below, supplemented by analysis of US data that is available for a longer period from 1973-2017 in summary refutes both propositions. Global recorded music revenues were growing strongly from 1973 to 1999 - prior to the digitisation of music and the spread of the Internet. From 1999 – or after the launch of Napster the first major online pirate site - music revenues collapsed creating a value gap that continues to grow despite growth in streaming music revenues driving an increase in nominal revenues in recent years.

In particular from 1999 to 2017 global music revenues fell to be only around 28% of what they would have been had they kept up with the rest of the global economy, or the rate of nominal global GDP growth from 1999. If global music revenues had kept up with the global nominal GDP growth rate from 1999 they would have been US$ 62.5 billion by 2017, or 3.65 times higher than the actually realised US17.3 billion.

This implies a global music value gap compared to what global recorded music revenues would have been had they kept up with nominal global GDP growth:
• The annual global music value gap was over US$45.2 billion per annum by 2017;
• The global cumulative music value gap from 1999 to 2017 is around US$502.5 billion, or just over US$ 0.5 trillion;
• The average annual increase in the global music Value Gap from 1999 to 2017 was $1.1 billion per annum; and
• The value gap has continued to grow on average by US$139 million per annum from 2013 -2017 - despite growth in streaming music revenues driving an increase in nominal revenues.

Keywords: Intellectual property, Copyright Law, economics

JEL Classification: K11, K29

Suggested Citation

Barker, George Robert, Global Music Revenues, Music Streaming and The Global Music Value Gap (December 10, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

George Robert Barker (Contact Author)

Australian National University ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

Wolson College, University of Oxford ( email )

Linton Road
Oxford, OX2 6UD
United Kingdom

Law and Economics Consulting Associates Ltd ( email )

Level 9 Chifley Tower
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Sydney, New South Wales 2000
+61405 394 193 (Phone)

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