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In the late 1980s, signings and firings became the norm as business-minded labels sought to reduce risk and maximize profit. In the '90s, the industry embraced CDs, which cost less to manufacture and sold at higher price points than vinyl, but failed to see the coming impact of peer-to-peer file sharing networks and new systems for digital music storage and playback. Downloading digital music brought in only a fraction of the money made on physical media. From 1999 to 2009, sales of recorded music tumbled, from $14.6 billion to a mere $6.3 billion.Over the past decade, the industry has experienced a surprising rebound thanks to the breakneck growth of music streaming services. The Recording Industry Association of America reports 80 percent of industry revenue now comes from streaming, and the number of paid subscriptions has surpassed 60 million. Following four consecutive years of double-digit growth, total year-end revenues are expected to break the $10 billion mark this year, inching ever closer to the sales numbers the industry hit during the glory days of CDs.
With all that money back on the table, record labels are scouting new talent again. But this time around, they’re hedging their bets with real-time metrics. Every day, millions of bits of data are tracked across Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, in addition to sources such as YouTube and RadioWave. Aggregators like Chartmetric and Soundcharts provide stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of an artist’s radio airplay, streaming playlist adds and positions, social media engagement, and geolocated listener demographics.