Today the Recording Industry Association of America released their 2010 sales statistics for digital and physical music. What it shows is an interesting forecast of what the future holds for how we buy music on our mobile devices.

Specifically the numbers reveal that there was an overall decline in online music sales to mobile devices. In 2009 there were 305 million tracks sold and in 2010 that number declined 27.9% to 220.5 million. This is a decline that has continued for several years.

Screen shot 2011 05 03 at 10.40.08 AM RIAA music sales numbers reinforce that cloud streaming is inevitable

In dramatic contrast the amount of digital music subscriptions rose from 1.2 to 1.5 million, a 29.9% increase. The number may not seem all that dramatic at first but remember that subscribers have access to large amounts of music, not just single tracks. this means that an increase of 300k subscriptions removes the potential for a massive amount of song sales.

Another supporting factor is that although there was only a small increase in the number of total digital units, 2.3%, there was a giant increase in the royalties garnered from digital performances, which were up 60%. Remember that the RIAA may not get an individual track purchase from a streaming subscription like Spotify, but royalties still must be paid for the tracks played on the service.

The other numbers aren’t all that surprising, despite a small surge in the CD Single category, physical media sales were down 20.2% overall. The total retail unit numbers of all music sold were also down 21.8%.

Delivering content to users via the cloud is blazing hot right now, with media content leading the charge. These numbers are just the beginning of the rise of the subscription music model and the decline of the single track purchase.