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Music sales in Singapore grew last year, after four years of losses

SINGAPORE — Pharrell Williams’ Happy was the most popular song globally on last year’s Billboard top 100, and “Happy” is probably what the music industry in Singapore is feeling, as it has finally turned a corner after years of double-digit losses.

Headsets hang in front of a screen displaying a Spotify logo on it. REUTERS file photo

Headsets hang in front of a screen displaying a Spotify logo on it. REUTERS file photo

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SINGAPORE — Pharrell Williams’ Happy was the most popular song globally on last year’s Billboard top 100, and “Happy” is probably what the music industry in Singapore is feeling, as it has finally turned a corner after years of double-digit losses.

Music sales in Singapore grew 4.7 per cent to S$17.2 million last year, after four consecutive years of losses, according to the recently released annual report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Responding to 938LIVE, IFPI’s Regional Director Ang Kwee Tiang said this was due to the growth of digital revenue, particularly from online streaming platforms such as Spotify and Deezer which saw greater consumer awareness last year.

“The biggest growth area for last year was in what we call subscription services; the first will be what we called the paid subscriptions — consumers pay a monthly fee — versus what we called ad-supported services. And both grew very sharply,” he said.

Digital music revenue in Singapore reached S$9.5 million last year, 34 per cent higher than S$5.4 million in 2013 and more than twice that of physical format purchases, such as CDs, which contributed S$4.5 million.

Spotify said Singaporeans have created more than 1.7 million playlists since its launch, and they have spent more than 1,000 years listening to music. It added that the most streamed song last year was Rude by Magic!.

But while the music industry is seeing higher sales in Singapore, there are some worries about key trends.

INDUSTRY WORRIED ABOUT LOW INCOME

Taylor Swift created a stir last year when she removed her albums from Spotify, putting the spotlight on the low income that artistes earn from streaming services.

Such concerns are shared by some local industry participants. Even though such services have boosted the revenue of indie label Ocean Butterflies Music, its Managing Director Colin Goh said streaming is a double-edged sword.

He said that while streaming can be a useful promotional tool, “when your artistes are really successful and influential, then the share you’re getting is really peanuts”.

Despite the concerns, the trend towards streaming is giving music fans a convenient and cheap way of listening to their favourite tracks. Music lover Darrelle Ng said the last time she stepped into a CD shop was three years ago, “because if I stream or buy online, I can select individual songs to buy, instead of having to get the entire album”.

Although growing digital sales is good news for the wider industry, it is likely to put further pressure on local CD shops. In recent years, Tower Records and Sembawang Music have closed, while other players have downsized, raising questions about whether CD retailers are ultimately doomed.

If current trends continue, such shops might not be too “Happy”, with Mr Ang of IFPI pointing out that CDs may eventually become a niche product just like vinyl records. 938LIVE

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