Music industry reports gains in 2020 as fans buy more discs

posted on Monday, 4th January 2021 by Steve May

Hi-fi  Music streaming  Trade 

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Official figures released by record labels’ association the BPI, based on Official Charts Company data, show that recorded music consumption in the UK rose by 8.2 per cent in 2020, with 155 million albums or their equivalent either streamed or purchased by fans.

The increase in consumption was achieved despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has wiped out the live music and events sector. Data shows that demand initially dipped around the start of the first lockdown, but listening rebounded across streaming and physical formats and grew throughout the year.

With nearly 200 artists achieving over 100 million streams or more in the UK over the past 12 months, their success contributed to an overall total of 139 billion audio streams in 2020, up by more than a fifth.

Streaming now accounts for four-fifths (80.6 per cent) of UK music consumption, with people of all ages using it for their daily music choices, but also collecting their favourite albums on CD, vinyl and other physical formats. A new wave of artists, who are harnessing the global reach of streaming, are each generating hundreds of millions of streams in the UK alone. Backed by rising label A&R investment, which in 2019 rose to above £250 million, and creative marketing, these new stars know how to unlock the potential that streaming offers to achieve chart success and to forge a successful career.

Emerging next generation British talent includes D-Block Europe, Aitch, AJ Tracey, Headie One, J Hus, KSI and Nines, plus dance artists Joel Corry and Jax Jones, IDLES and Sports Team, Tom Speight and Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Cinnamon.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “A new wave of British talent is capitalising on the immediacy of streaming to achieve fantastic success, measured in the hundreds of millions, even billions of streams. Record labels are investing heavily in new artists to secure the future of British music, boosting the UK’s exports and soft power.”
“The performance of recorded music in 2020 was remarkable, and reminds us how important music is to our country, even when our lives are disrupted. But any satisfaction we can take is tempered by the devastating impact of the pandemic on live music. Recorded music is only one element of artists’ incomes, and we renew our calls on government to support our culturally important venues, nightclubs and festivals until they can safely reopen.”

Streaming has made it easy and affordable for fans to access more music, and also for more artists to reach a larger audience. At the same time it has recalibrated success. The top 10 streaming artists in 2020 each achieved over half a billion streams in the UK alone. But below them in the top 200 there were many artists achieving more than 200 million streams, while further down still, even artists ranking between 500th– 1,000th achieved between 43 million and 21 million UK streams. A million streams may sound a lot out of context, but 8,000 different acts now exceed this threshold annually.

The market has also become much more competitive, with many more artists able to access distribution and streaming platforms. Even at the lower end of streaming volume has surged, with more than six times as many artists achieving 100,000 streams as the equivalent number of sales in 2007.

As recently reported by the BPI, whilst the continued growth in streaming underpinned much of the rise in consumption, the remarkable performance of vinyl, which jumped by over a tenth (11.5 per cent) to almost 5 million (4.8m) copies purchased – representing 13 years of consecutive growth. The continuing revival of the audio cassette, which almost doubled (94.7 per cent) in sales to 156,542 copies, the highest total since 2003, also demonstrated the fan appeal of music in tangible formats as a complement to streaming.

Demand for CD continued to reflect long-term trends, but, with 16 million copies sold representing 10.3 per cent of recorded music consumption, the format continues to show its resilience and play a key role in shaping chart success.

Physical remains a ‘kingmaker’ for No.1 albums: in the majority of weeks (28) in 2020, it accounted for 50% of chart-eligible sales of the Official Charts No.1 artist album. Digital albums also continued their long-term trend, down by 19.0%, but they still contributed 5.9 million unit purchases to the overall AES total.

“Once again physical music is proving the kingmaker in chart success, with over half of this year’s No.1 albums boasting a physical sales majority. As we celebrate this streaming boom, it’s important we also remember the ongoing fan demand for something tangible, and recognise that streaming and physical music coexist quite happily,” says Drew Hill, MD Proper Music Distribution.
Eight of the best-selling artists on album format were British, led by Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa – all three of whom achieved nearly half a billion streams or more in 2020 in the UK alone and billions more streams globally, who made it an all-British Top 3.

The biggest-selling singles of the year were Blinding Lights by The Weeknd, Dance Monkey by Tones & I, and Roses by Saint Jhn. Lewis Capaldi had two tracks in the Top-10 with Before You Go (No.4) and Someone You Loved (No.8), while fellow Brits Dua Lipa, Joel Corry (with MNEK), and the Stormzy and Ed Sheeran Own It collaboration (with Burna Boy) also made the Top 10.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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