They say music formats run in 20-to-30-year cycles. CDs, cassettes, LPs, 78s, even wax cylinders all had nice long runs as the sonic medium of choice. Downloads, on the other hand, just overtook CDs as the most popular format for American music buyers last year, and here we are 12 months later, declaring that they’re on life-support. Maybe we’re jumping the gun, but there’s compelling evidence that at the very least their rise has slowed significantly. According to a study by the market research firm Strategy Analytics, global revenues from digital downloads were expected to grow by 8.5 percent in 2012. That’s not nothing, but consider this: The same study found that revenues from streaming music services like Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, and MOG were expected to grow by 40 percent. Granted, streaming revenues had nowhere to go but up, and the overall market for downloads is still almost four times larger than that for streaming, but the trend line is clear.
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