Companies like Apple and Amazon were long thought to be the salvation of the music business. Now new data suggest streaming music is really a tide too high for them to overcome, thanks to companies like Pandora.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, music downloads are down 1% year-to-date over last year. That may not be earthshattering for other industries but, for a business that has been on life support for several years, it could be the start of something awful for the music business.
Apple's iTunes launched a decade ago. In that time, the amount of units sold in the US by the music industry has skyrocketed above 1.8 billion units. That's well above what it was in 2000, when just over one billion units were shipped, according to data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). But, while unit sales were up dramatically, total revenues dropped from $20 billion in 2000 to $7 billion in 2012. Digital units account for nearly 88% of all units shipped but only 43% of revenue.
In other words, iTunes and other services like Amazon's music store may have boosted units sold but those cheaper units came at the expense of the entire industry. Things were fine for those companies charging $0.99 per song download. But, there's a new threat to their recently-won dominance: streaming music.
The really booming part of the music business has been from the likes of Pandora and Spotify. From 2011 to 2012, subscription-based services grew 58.9% to $570.8 million in 2012. Add to that distributions via SoundExchange (such as through Sirius XM), and the combines $1.03 billion accounted for a quarter of digital music revenues and 14.6% of all US music revenues in 2012.
Streaming music is now coming under fire from some big-selling artists, recalling the band Metallica's battle against downloading service Napster a decade ago. In recent weeks, Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Talking Heads' David Byrne both targeted Pandora's rival Spotify in various interviews and columns. (A very thorough and thoughtful rebuke of Byrne was recently penned by Gang of Four and Shriekback founder Dave Allen, who is now a digital marketing consultant. The comments in that piece are also worth reading).
Meanwhile, investors have been betting on streaming music to be the wave of the future. Shares of Pandora have tripled since the start of the year. So, as streaming music grows to prominence, is Pandora not only eating Apple for lunch when it comes to music, but also leaving nothing left for later?
To answer this question and more, CNBC contributor Gina Sanchez, founder of Chantico Global, takes a look at the fundamentals of Pandora. On the charts is Talking Numbers contributor Richard Ross, Global Technical Strategist at Auerbach Grayson.
Watch the video above to see what the fundamentals and technicals have to say about Pandora.