Music is one of the most ubiquitous art forms in the world. Lullabies soothe babies to sleep from the youngest of ages, and kids try their hand at playing an instrument in elementary school. By the teenage years, music becomes part of our identities—we gravitate toward certain genres as a form of our own self-expression, and the lyrics and melodies feed the deepest part of our souls.
Music then takes on new roles in adulthood. It keeps us entertained on our commutes, helps us stay focused at work, provides a welcome distraction while we’re doing chores around the house, and sets just the right mood for parties and get-togethers. Plus, in non-pandemic times, seeing our favorite bands perform live and feeling the energy of crowds at arena concerts often become some of our most cherished memories. Music is with us at every stage of life.
But as we’re poring over deep lyrics from our favorite singer-songwriters and debating whether dynamic bands fall into one genre or another, we rarely recognize the fact that music is much more than an art form—it’s a big, profit-driven business.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) put the total value of the recording industry at $20.2 billion in 2019. The music industry is responsible for an estimated 1.9 million jobs in the United States alone, per the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). And music has helped the net worth of some artists, like Andrew Lloyd Weber and Paul McCartney, surpass $1 billion. It’s this very industry that determines which bands make their way onto Spotify playlists, and which ones are forgotten entirely.
To help understand the business behind favorite songs and albums, Stacker compiled a list of 50 fascinating facts about the music industry using a mix of information from Goldman Sachs and Citibank; reports from industry leaders like the IFPI and the RIAA; news outlets, including the BBC, The Verge, Vice and The New York Times; and music publications like Billboard and Rolling Stone.