Global Music Revenue Grew 10.2% in 2023 — but Executives Warn of a ‘Transformational Moment’ Ahead

The IFPI Global Music Report has long been viewed as the definitive snapshot of the international music industry’s health (or otherwise). After all, the global recorded music industry trade body’s report has chronicled both the industry’s long, painful period of physical decline and celebrated its streaming-led return to growth.
But the publication of its 2024 report — launched Thursday at a press conference in London — felt like one of those years when the numbers are slightly lagging behind the real story of what’s happening in the industry.
The statistics, certainly, paint an almost across-the-board picture of a business in good health. Global recorded music revenues were up 10.2% in 2023 to $28.6 billion, the ninth consecutive year of growth, and better than last year’s 9% rise.
The number of paid music streaming subscriptions passed 500 million for the first time, with subscription streaming up 11.2%, while there are now 677 million users of paid subscription accounts globally.
There was growth in every region of the world, ranging from solid increases in mature markets such as the U.S. & Canada (+7.4%), Europe (+8.9%) and Australasia (+10.8%) to more substantial rises in developing music markets in the Middle East & North Africa (+14.4%), Asia (+14.9%), Latin America (+19.4%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (+24.7%).
Many of those rates compared favorably with last year’s numbers, when the U.S. & Canada only went up 5.1% and Europe could only manage a 7.5% boost, as long-awaited increases to the price of streaming subscriptions finally filtered through.
It seems clear though, that the explosive growth that has powered the industry recovery in those markets is now levelling off. And, as the IFPI panel – comprising executives from Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and indie Embassy Of Music – took to the stage, it was evident that there are other concerns lingering beyond the numbers.
After all, since the 2023 survey period ended, there have been hundreds of layoffs across the recorded-music industry, particularly at Universal and Warner — and, indeed, at streaming services as well, as noted by Konrad Von Löhneysen, founder and director of Embassy Of Music — while senior executives have talked of having to “redesign” how labels work for the new music climate.
Add in Universal Music Group’s on-going dispute with TikTok – not to mention the possibility that the app will be banned in the U.S. – and the vague yet potentially existential threat of artificial intelligence, and it’s no wonder the executives were serving a side order of caution with their upbeat main course.
“The reality is that we’re at the beginning stages of another transformational event for the music industry,” said Dennis Kooker, President of Global Digital Business at Sony Music Entertainment, who warned music discovery was much more challenging in the modern world of “fragmented” audiences.
When the panel was asked by Variety about what the industry layoffs and calls for a new record-company model will mean, somewhat ironically it was Kooker – representing the one major which hasn’t cut staff significantly in recent months – who stepped up to answer.
Noting that the business has already gone through “two transformational events” in recent times – the shift from physical to digital, and the shift from an ownership model to streaming’s access system – he said the industry was now preparing for the next one.
“If we’re in a transformational moment, what we’ve learned from the past is we’ve got to adjust ahead of that,” Kooker said. “Our challenge is to anticipate changes in the market and make sure we’re adapting so we continue to be incredibly relevant and do the most important job that we have, which is to focus on our artists and deliver opportunities so that they can build and grow their careers.”
At the moment, AI seems to represent both a challenge and an opportunity for working musicians. Adam Granite, Universal Music Group’s EVP of Market Development, noted that UMG itself holds AI-related patents and has embraced opportunities in the sector, but stressed the company’s opposition to systems that use music “without authorization and compensation.”
“We believe it’s perfectly possible to develop and adopt AI technology while also ensuring artists’ rights are protected,” he added.
While not naming specific companies, Kooker also warned that ad-supported/free streaming services, especially in the short-form video sector, needed to bring in more revenue for the industry, noting the potential for “hybrid” tiers.
“We haven’t progressed ad-supported tiers in established markets, especially in the worst-monetizing type of ad-supported products: short-clip video platforms that have no chance to lead to paid subscriptions and [can] become primary consumption platforms for many young consumers,” he said. “There’s been no evolution of the financial models for free tiers since the beginning of the streaming era, and that needs to be re-examined.”
Those issues will likely become more pressing as the year progresses but, for now, there was plenty of comfort in the numbers and trends contained within the report.
Physical revenues were up year-on-year by 13.4%, while performance rights revenue jumped 9.5% and synchronization inched up 4.7%. Even digital downloads, that deadest duck of a format, were only down 2.6%, while the panel all had good news stories to report.
Leila Oliveira, President of Warner Music Brazil, hailed Latin America as “a cultural powerhouse”, adding: “It’s great to see it finally getting the recognition it deserves.”
Marie-Anne Robert, MD of Sony Music Entertainment France talked about how the increased demand for domestic repertoire in many markets, including her own, was boosting investment in local artists. Kabiru Bello, Warner Music Group’s VP of Global A&R enthused about the cross-pollination of markets and the artist collaborations happening between different regions, while Granite saw huge potential for more growth in markets from India to Nigeria.
And Von Löhneysen and Vanessa Bosåen, president of Virgin Music Group UK, stressed that record companies remain essential to artists looking to navigate the rapidly changing industry landscape.
The numbers certainly back up such positivity, showing an industry so stable that the Top 10 markets remained exactly the same as last year (the U.S. is still No.1, followed by Japan, the U.K. and Germany, although fifth-placed China was the fastest growing country, posting a 25.9% surge in revenues).
But one suspects that the next 12 months could bring a much bigger redrawing of music industry architecture. And, if that happens, the IFPI’s 2025 Global Music Report should make for very interesting reading indeed…

Read the full report here.

More from Variety

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.