Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled 30 years of data shows the music industry peaked when Napster hit the scene
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

The music industry, like all industries, has changed a lot over the last 30 years due to advancements in technology and the advent of the internet. A new graph from the data experts at Chartr shows just what that change has meant in terms of what kind of media consumers are buying and how much revenue the industry is making from those sales. The transition from vinyl to cassette to CD to digital is familiar to all music fans, but this chart still offers a look at some bizarre moments throughout the industry’s history.


For example, 1999 marked the highest grossing year for record companies, which should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers spending $23 on a 10-song EP packed into a cheap, oft-broken jewel case. Coincidentally, that was the same year Napster was founded, ushering in a new era of music consumption that would result in record companies dragging their feet into the digital age. Other statistical aberrations include the recent resurgence in vinyl sales and the mid-2000s ringtone boom that we still can’t believe was actually a thing.

That mint green surge at the right end of the graph clearly shows that we are firmly entrenched in the streaming music era, but, as we’ve seen in the past, just because you’re on top now doesn’t mean you will be forever. The music format of the future may be out there right now and we’re just not aware of it. Or, hey, maybe CDs are coming back.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Pay me to write for you, you coward.

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