Carrying on — Music at the Midpoint of 2021

As we look back on the first half of a challenging year, we’d all hoped to be in a different place.

4 min readSep 13, 2021

A global pandemic continues to rock our communities. Spring’s promise of rapid reopening has given way to Delta’s renewed uncertainty. For millions of Americans, from restaurant workers to frontline health care heroes, the daily push to keep moving forward carries on.

And just as music led the way on resources and relief when the COVID crisis emerged — holding livestream fundraisers, creating the aid portal, and fighting in Congress for artists, musicians, songwriters, and venues — we will continue to lead through these latest twists and turns.

Whether it’s working towards renewed support for creators, following up on venue relief to ensure it reaches those who need it, or public education and advocacy to power safe reopening, our community will be there — sharing stories and moments to inspire, uplift, and connect.

It’s a determination and a commitment borne out of life in our business. In the studio, you keep going until it’s right. On the road, nothing’s unexpected. On stage, you do what it takes to deliver for fans. No matter the challenges, we stick together.

You see it in artists and music companies helping with public education and providing fans with critical information and options. When the White House wanted a messenger who could not be ignored, it’s no surprise their first call was to Interscope’s unstoppable Olivia Rodrigo.

Music’s vitality and energy has sustained and inspired us in other ways throughout the year. RIAA’s Gold & Platinum program has seen historic milestones including Dan + Shay’s Good Times becoming the first country album certified gold on day of release and Bruno Mars’s crowning achievement as the first artist to ever have 5 diamond certified songs while the Foo Fighters powered another successful Record Store Day 2021. All year long the charts have been flooded with wave after wave of compelling new music — the perfect soundtrack for a nation ready to “leave old habits and ways of thinking behind and dive headlong into something new.”

This creative outpouring is reflected in music’s vital and irreplaceable contributions to the national economy. RIAA and our music community partners recently unveiled our 50 States of Music website documenting the jobs, venues, and wages driven by music in every state — a total of $170 billion each year and 2.5 million American jobs.

New data released today shows just how deeply Americans continue to value and engage with recorded music — listening to more than 840 BILLION on-demand streams in the first half of the year, a record for any six month period in history and one with substantial room for continued growth both on audio streaming and on audiovisual platforms like TikTok and Twitch.

Streaming continues to grow in countless ways, expanding its reach as the dominant form of listening today with nearly $6 billion in recorded music revenues so far this year, 84% of the total. Paid subscriptions continued a multi-year trend of strong growth, increasing 13% over the first half of 2020 to a record 82 million.

Emerging platforms like short form video, fitness apps, and a host of chat and social apps are also getting licensed and starting to deliver meaningful revenues. Record labels are moving urgently to make sure these growing services pay for the music they depend on — future proofing artist incomes as technologies shift.

The data also shows continued surging interest in vinyl — rebounding from the challenges and disruptions of 2020 to a new post-Napster half-year high of $467 million. Clearly, even in a time of playlists and recommendation engines, fans still uniquely value the experience of vinyl. And labels have worked to meet that demand with a steady stream of showstopping releases, special editions, and audiophile-ready options.

These powerful results reflect a core truth about the ways we connect with music today — as a sustained and ongoing relationship where a steady stream of listening and discovery on different devices and services is with us all day long, powering a creative and commercial renaissance. One with continued new opportunities and headroom for growth and success for artists and their label partners.

2020 was no ordinary year. And 2021 hasn’t been simple either.

But music’s power, lessons, and spirit have been here to carry us through. And they always will be.

Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO, RIAA




The RIAA is about music — everything from fostering its creative and financial vitality to honoring artists who achieve success.