In 2020, almost one third of global revenue with record sales and music streaming was generated by the music industry behemoth Universal Music Group. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the UK government has asked the Competition and Markets Authority, its cartel watchdog, to launch an investigation into the market dominance of Universal, Sony and Warner Music. As our chart indicates, the trio has been responsible for most of the global revenue made by record companies year after year.
While independent labels' earnings were on the rise up until 2018, that star seems to have fallen again in recent years. Last year, sales and streaming revenue of indie artists and labels only made up 31.4 percent of the total global revenue. 2020 also marked the first year where Universal Music Group surpassed every other record company with a 32.1 percent market share, with its direct competitors Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group lagging behind considerably with 20.6 and 15.9 percent respectively.
After a lull in the early and mid 2010s, revenues in the global recording industry have been increasing steadily every year. Even the coronavirus could only put a slight damper on its growth: In 2020, recorded music revenue came in at 23.1 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of 1.6 billion U.S. dollars over 2019. 62.1 percent of those earnings came from streaming, while physical sales only made up 19.5 percent and digital downloads, the revenue pillar which was supposed to supplant vinyl records and CDs, generated just 5.8 percent of the music industry revenue last year. With smaller artists struggling to make ends meet with streaming alone while it has become the premier source of income for record companies at the same time, the business models of Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal could be the subject of further investigation by more governing bodies in the future.