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The Future of Streaming Music Rests with Congress

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When it comes to the content industry, the world is a-changing. No matter what the industry – publishing, music, television, movies, comic books and more – there has already been a significant shift in the how and where people consume this content thanks to broadband, the Internet and, more recently, mobile technologies.

According to Nielsen (NSLN) Soundscan numbers, digital music track sales fell 12.5% in the 1Q 2014 to 312 million, down from 356.5 million, while digital album sales dropped 14.2% to 27.8 million from 32.4 million. And just in case you are wondering, CD sales are declining even faster, down 20.5% to 31.9 million from 40.1 million.

By comparison, on-demand song and video streams in the first quarter of 2014 climbed 35% to 34.28 billion, up from 25.44 billion streams in the first quarter of 2013. Pandora’s (P) application has been among the most-downloaded free apps for iPhones and iPads, demonstrating that streaming is becoming a mainstream way to listen to music on portable devices. Pandora is now available on more than 400 connected devices and at the end of May the company had 77 million active listeners. During the month those millions and millions of people listened to 1.73 billion hours of Pandora programming, a 28% increase year over year.

Even third party research firm Nielsen, the company that measures the ratings of television shows, had updated its ratings measurement system to capture data about television viewing not simply through broadcast, but through streaming. Given Nielsen’s acquisition of radio ratings giant Arbitron one has to wonder how long until Nielsen Audio expands its measuring scope to include services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple’s (AAPL) recently acquired Beats service and Amazon.com’s (AMZN) new Prime Music offering.

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