Electronic Music Industry Now Worth Close to $7 Billion Amid Slowing Growth

The annual report from IMS shows flatlining record sales and moderate gains in streaming while the live sector holds steady.

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May 25 2015, 7:24pm

If you have bought a festival ticket, paid for a drink at a club, or even coughed up $1.29 for a track download, you can take some credit for elevating the estimated value of the global electronic music industry to a whopping $6.9 billion in 2014. The figure comes courtesy of the annual IMS Business Report which tallies data and figures from a myriad of findings about dance music and its many scions, delivered late last week at the International Music Summit in Ibiza, May 20-23. The majority of that nearly $7 billion estimate comes from live music, including festivals and clubs and $2 billion coming from North America.

While $6.9 billion is a significant wad of cash, it's only 12% higher than the 2013 estimate of $6.2 billion, indicating that expansion might be slowing across the industry. By comparison, the 2012 value was around $4.5 billion and grew 35% the following year. Unsurprisingly, one area in which that growth has stagnated is record sales. While 2013 saw major album releases like Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, Disclosure's Settle, and Avicii's True, 2014 didn't have any equivalent breakouts, prompting a decline in electronic music album sales for both the US and UK. Single track sales have also flatlined, year over year.

Two of 2014 biggest hits in electronic music, Clean Bandit's Grammy-winning "Rather Be" and Robin Schulz's Grammy-nominated "Waves" remix, were relatively humble in terms of sales compared to 2013 crossover monsters like "Get Lucky," "Latch," and "Wake Me Up." The uptick in streaming of electronic music is a small bright spot on the landscape, though the paltry fee artists collect on streaming leaves little to celebrate there. While vinyl sales have been strong for the music industry overall, there is no mention of it in the IMS report, perhaps because after Random Access Memories was the top-selling vinyl album of 2013, vinyl sales in 2014 were dominated by rock acts like Jack White and Arctic Monkeys.


US festival attendance remained flat at 1.4 million in 2014, despite the addition of TomorrowWorld, Mysteryland, and a slew of smaller boutique events to the calendar. IMS cites the reason as the return to one weekend for Ultra Miami after a one-off two-weekend year in 2013, and predicts growth in 2015 with new events like AEG/Goldenvoice's CRSSD and SFX/ID&T's One Tribe, both in California.

Not that anyone is shedding a tear here, but as the IMS report shows in a summary of a Forbes report from last year, DJ salaries have also started to level off, with incomes in the top bracket growing a mere 12% from 2013, compared with 37% the year before. Thanks to an array of brand partnerships in addition to heavy global radio play, near-full entitlement on songwriting and production credit for his releases, and a million dollar an hour asking price, Calvin Harris has more than double the salary of the No. 2 DJ, with $66 million compared to David Guetta's $30.

Special attention is paid in this year's report to emerging markets like India, East Asia, and South Africa, with each territory benefiting from investments by Europeans and North Americans as well as local events like India's Sunburn. Staggeringly, IMS provides no information on Latin America, despite the expansion of established festival brands like ID&T's Mysteryland and Insomniac's EDC to LatAm markets and the demonstrable fervor of fanbases there.

Even alongside the formidable calculations of IMS resident wonk Kevin Watson, it's hard to take seriously parts of a report that credits Nervo with the success of women DJs in Thailand and Singapore (page 12) or offers Simon Cowell's "Ultimate DJ" show and a museum in Frankfurt as the same level of evidence that "electronic music has begun to truly penetrate mainstream culture" (page 23). Still, as a compilation of existing data from sources both credible (Nielsen, Forbes) and whack (topdeejays.com, DJ Mag), the IMS Business Report is a fine resource for statistical information about the business of electronic music.

What 2015's numbers tell us has yet to be determined, but after several years of explosive expansion (barring any dramatic shifts in practices by the industry's biggest players) we might be in for another 12 months of statistical inertia.

Read the full IMS Business report here.
Photo courtesy of IMS on Twitter

Zel McCarthy is the editor-in-chief of THUMP. He is on Twitter.