Which art form is more popular: music or cinema?

Music and cinema are both forms of art that have a huge influence on modern culture, but which one is more popular? Are there more people listening to music than going to the movies, or vice versa? The answer might surprise you! In this article, we’ll examine the global popularity of music and cinema, and explore their advantages and disadvantages as forms of art. We’ll also take a look at some of the statistics that measure their popularity and try to determine which one actually draws more attention on an international scale. You may be surprised by what you find!


What do we mean by popularity?

Before we tackle how to define popularity, let’s be clear on what we mean when we say popularity. For our purposes, it means how many people consume an art form; for example, consider the box office sales of films such as Avatar and The Avengers. However, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus solely on revenue earned from ticket sales at movie theaters.


Music sales

According to Business Insider, 1 in 4 people around the world listen to some sort of Reelcraze music every day. This number jumps up dramatically when factoring in young people; 73% of millennials go through their day with some kind of soundtrack. Additionally, The Guardian estimates that revenue from recorded music globally grew by 13% over 2011 and 2012, reaching $16 billion, with most of these sales coming from digital download stores such as iTunes. As for cinema ticket sales, The Numbers tracks all sorts of movie statistics, including ticket sales.


Spotify plays, views, and listens

What are Spotify plays, views, and listens? How many times has a song been played, viewed, and listened to on Spotify? The company defines each of these stats as follows. A play happens when someone clicks play on a song in their playlist or saved list. A view happens when someone opens up a video for at least three seconds. And listen refers to how long someone actually spends listening to an audio track (or watching a video).


Followers on social media

The social media world has exploded over recent years and Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networks now have a large impact on how people communicate. Social media platforms allow artists to connect with their fans in an entirely new way, meaning that it’s possible for these smaller forms of communication to be much more powerful than traditional online forums such as blogs. Artists can use these sites as a way to track down potential customers by following them or ‘liking’ their posts.


Ticket sales vs streaming service subscription

When it comes to sales, digital downloads and physical CD sales continue to account for the most money in music. In 2016, $4.6 billion came from digital album sales, $2.9 billion from digital track sales, and a whopping $7.6 billion from the physical album and track sales. 


Digital streaming services like Spotify are now taking over, with an estimated $2.5 billion generated by paid subscriptions alone last year and that’s not even counting ad-supported free streaming services like YouTube Reel Craze Music (1 billion users) and Pandora (80 million users). 


According to Nielsen Music data reported by Billboard, on-demand audio streams surpassed 250 billion songs in 2017, up 51 percent compared to 2016; overall on-demand streams (including video) reached 393 billion, up 54 percent.


Live shows vs YouTube views

One way of comparing these two mediums of artistic expression is to look at how many people actually attend concerts versus how many views on YouTube. In 2012, for example, there were 36 million people attending concert events in a year vs 1 billion people viewing music videos (whether live or recorded) on YouTube. That’s not even including mobile phones. It’s clear that YouTube gets a lot more views than going to see a live show!


Actual tickets sold vs YouTube views (adjusted)

1 billion views = 6,370,000 tickets sold. For example, Justin Bieber’s Sorry has 2.7 billion YouTube views but only 969,000 people bought tickets to his 2016 tour (I put an asterisk next to artists with a large difference between views and tickets sold). In comparison, if you divide Lady Gaga’s 1.2 billion YouTube views by her 3 million concert tickets sold in 2016, you get 333 million views per ticket. The numbers are even worse for Adele at 200 million views per ticket.


Music vs Cinema Box Office Comparison

In 2018, Hollywood hit a record $40.6 billion in revenue at theaters worldwide, with close to $20 billion from North America alone. In comparison, musical artists around the world were estimated to have generated $30.7 billion in recorded music sales and other revenue streams last year according to IFPI, a trade group representing 1,300 labels worldwide.


Headline grosses adjusted for inflation/change in prices

Perhaps a question better suited for economists, but here’s a stab at it. I used data from Box Office Mojo to look at worldwide grosses in constant dollars, adjusting for inflation and change in ticket prices; then, I divided them by global population. 


For example, if one film grossed $10 billion in 2016 (in 2016 dollars) while another grossed $20 billion in 1990 (in 1990 dollars),

they each had roughly twice as many tickets sold per capita than films released today. There are some caveats,

for example, films that opened on fewer screens didn’t have as much competition

when they debuted but overall, there doesn’t seem to be much

a difference between how well films do now versus how well they did decades ago.


Ticket sales adjusted for inflation/change in prices

There are many ways to argue that one art form has become more popular than another. The data isn’t always easy to come by, but it’s not too difficult to find box office receipts adjusted for inflation. It seems as though revenues for the film were higher than those of music in 1978 and have remained relatively close since then, with a slight uptick in recent years in favor of the film. However, if you adjust ticket sales for inflation, you can see a dramatic increase in revenues across both forms over time.


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