Is Germany ready to ditch the physical for digital?

Music: Will 2018 be the Year Germans Finally Go Digital?

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

Some would say Germany is responsible for killing the music industry after a little known invention called the mp3 was brought to life by German engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg, but for a country that sparked a musical revolution, its own music listeners have struggled to keep up. While a vast majority of the world has long said goodbye to the music they can touch and hold in their hands in favor of digital files, Germans are still consuming their tunes in more traditional ways, but recent trends show that those days me be coming to an end, and that end could very well become a reality in 2018.

The German music market is the fourth largest in the world, which makes the fact that a majority of Germans have not yet embraced the most popular modern methods of listening to their music even more surprising. Only Japan beats out Germany when it comes to the physical music love affair.

“Germans were not exactly early adopters for streaming”

So why is a country like Germany, known for many forward thinking technological inventions, so far behind? Germans do have a certain fondest to physical ownership, which goes beyond just music, but it also struggled to get ahead of the game when it came to pioneering the digital music landscape.

“Germans were not exactly early adopters for streaming. They started pretty late compared to the Scandinavians or even Sweden with Spotify,” Sigrid Herrenbrück from the BVMI (Bundesverband Musikindustrie) explained during a presentation held by Initiative Musik in Berlin. “Even France had their own streaming service Deezer. The habits of streaming really were adopted a lot earlier in other countries than in Germany.”

German physical vs digital sales in 2016

While the digital adoption has been slow, the numbers have been changing significantly in only a few short years. In 2016, physical media accounted for 62.1-percent of music sales versus 37.9-percent digital, with music streaming being by far the most popular form of digital sales with 24.1-percent. To get a better idea of how the 2016 numbers look in the larger picture, the digital market was significantly lower with only roughly 25-percent of music sales just one year prior.

“most likely at the end of 2018 we will finally see a 50/50 market split.”

The question remains though… when will Germany finally catch up with the rest of the world and embrace the digital? Herrenbrück was pretty optimistic that that day is coming very soon, and if it weren’t for the holiday sales boom in December, 2017 could have been the year to make it happen.

“In the first half of 2017, the digital marketshare grew again with 47.5%, almost half the market now, going digital. It is not very likely though that we will reach this balance of 50/50 by the end of this year [2017], because traditionally Christmas sales are going to still strengthen the physical market at the end,” said Herrenbrück. “But most likely at the end of 2018 we will finally see a 50/50 market split.”

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Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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