Music business

About that catalog music stat we posted the other day…

Last Thursday (January 6), MBW released a jaw-dropping stat about the U.S. music market in 2021: 82.1% of second-half music consumption, by our calculations, was “catalog” music. “, as opposed to “current music”. ‘ the music.

This calculation was solid. We based it on figures published in the US market monitor MRC Data full year 2021 report – arrived last week – in addition to figures published in MRC Data’s middle of the year 2021 report, which was published last summer.

The MBW calculations in our analysis were detailed, but the basics aren’t rocket science:

  • MRC Data’s H1 2021 report, released last year, showed that the claimed catalog 66.4% music consumption in the United States in the first six months of 2021;
  • The MRC’s latest report, for the full year 2021, showed that the catalog claimed a 74.5% share over the 12 months of 2021;
  • Therefore, the catalog must naturally have claimed a significantly higher percentage than 74.5% in the last six months of last year (H2 2021).

We’ve calculated the numbers in question for H2 2021 and, lo and behold, 82.1% came out the other end.

Now, however, we have a problem: today (January 11) MRC Data published a correction to its 2021 annual report, significantly changing its numbers for “catalog” and “current” music consumption in 2021.

The title: Instead of “catalogue” music claiming a 74.5% annual share of US consumption (as originally reported), the recently corrected MRC Data report shows that the “catalogue” actually claimed a 69.8% share of the annual music market in the United States in 2021.

Obviously, this alteration is material.

As a result, MBW has recalculated our own analysis of the US market in 2021 using revised/corrected figures from MRC Data.

[You can download the full, newly-revised MRC Data FY 2021 report – with its corrected set of catalog vs. current numbers – through here.]



MRC’s original FY2021 report numbers for the US market (left) and newly corrected version (right). MBW has circled the key “catalog” percentage statistic.

At the end of this article, you can see the new MBW graphs and calculations based on the corrected 2021 report from MRC Data. Before that, here is the result:

  • MBW now calculates that “catalog” music actually claimed a 73.1% share (vs. “current” music) of US consumption in the second half of 2021, as opposed to our previous calculation of 82.1%;
  • This 73.1% share, of course, saw “catalogue” music claim almost three-quarters of the market; “current” music demanded a little more than a quarter. Statistically, this is a significant acceleration in the market share that ‘catalogue’ music claimed so much in H1 2021 (66.4%), and over the whole of 2020 (65.1%);
  • “Current” music is becoming less popular in real terms: over the 12 months of 2021, according to new figures from MRC, some 269.5 million Units of “total album consumption” (TAC) of current music have been recorded in the United States. This is a decrease of 3.7% compared to 279.9 million figure MRC data recorded during fiscal year 2020;
  • MBW’s calculations suggest that in the second half of 2021, “current” music was less consumed in terms of TAC (123.4 million) than in the first semester (146.1 million).

The updated numbers MBW used for our H2 2021 recalculations

And now, before the colorful charts promised by MBW, our standard explainer on MRC Data’s “Total Album Consumption” (TAC) unit of measure, and how it reflects both physical and digital record sales, as well as the streaming consumption, in the United States:

  • MRC’s “Total Album Consumption” (TAC) metric aggregates physical and digital album sales with single track downloads and (on-demand) streams, with these single track downloads and streams converted into “album equivalent” units. To achieve this, MRC converts all 1,250 premium streams or 3,750 streams of ad-supported tracks on an album into a single “sale” for that LP. The same goes for 10 downloads of tracks from the same album. This formula is designed to “reflect revenue”, for example, with 1,250 premium streams generating roughly the same amount of money as a single album.

And here’s our further explanation of MRC’s definition of “catalog” versus “current” music:

  • In MRC’s eyes, “catalogue” music counts as anything released more than 18 months before a consumer makes a purchase and/or presses play. “Current” music is the reverse: any music released within the 18 months prior to when a consumer made a purchase and/or pressed play.

Thank you for your patience. Up the charts!





Please note: MBW’s calculations, where credited, are just that – our own conclusions based on publicly released statistics from MRC Data. We do not claim that MRC Data endorsed our calculations.The music industry around the world