Audio streaming drives music consumption in 2021, but physical formats find fans

posted on Tuesday, 4th January 2022 by Steve May

Music streaming  Hi-fi  Vinyl 


The past 12 months have seen a boom in UK music consumption, according to new data released by the BPI.
The industry trade body registered 147 billion individual audio streams, up 5.7 per cent on 2020, with nearly 2,000 artists (1,918) streamed over 10 million times in the UK. This compares with 1,798 in 2020 and 1,537 in 2019, up a quarter in two years.

Additionally, there were over 14 million CDs and 5.3 million vinyl LPs purchased, with 185,000 cassettes sold and 4.6 million album downloads. Overall, streaming now accounts for 83 per cent of UK music consumption, while vinyl LPs represent over a quarter of all purchases on physical format.

It was also another strong year for homegrown talent, with UK artists Adele, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Dave, Elton John, Queen and Fleetwood Mac accounting for eight of the year’s top 10 albums.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “As our lives continue to be disrupted, the past 12 months have reminded us again of the important role that recorded music plays in our lives. At the same time, the rise of streaming has empowered more artists than ever – from all backgrounds and eras – to build new fanbases around the world and to forge successful careers in music, while record labels have continued to provide the investment and support needed for British talent to thrive and reach a truly global audience.”
All of the top 10 streaming artists in 2021 achieved over half a billion UK streams, while well over half of the top 100 artists achieved over 200 million streams. Typically a track needs to achieve over 1.4million audio streams in a single week just to break into the Official Singles Charts Top 40.

According to the BPI, 10 million streams generates at least the same royalties as 10,000 CD sales for an artist, and nearly 2,000 artists will achieve at least 10 million streams this year in the UK alone, nearly double the number who sold the equivalent number of CDs and downloads in 2007.

Despite the streaming boom, music lovers remain committed to physical formats. Vinyl has recorded its highest sales in three decades, and CD decline has slowed. Even cassettes are on the up.

Vinyl sales jumped by 11 per cent to well over 5 million (5.3m) copies purchased, while audio cassette sales grew by 19 per cent (up to 185,000 copies purchased).

Physical remains a ‘kingmaker’ for No.1 albums: in the vast majority of weeks (40) in 2021, it accounted for over half of chart-eligible sales of the Official Charts No.1 artist album. This trend is best exemplified by Adele’s album 30, which in December saw 80 per cent of its chart sales total made up of physical format sales. Digital albums also continued their long-term trend, down by 23 per cent, but they still contributed 4.6 million unit purchases to the overall AES total.

Drew Hill, MD Proper Music Distribution, said: "It’s been an incredible year for CDs, vinyl and cassettes as they continued to drive albums up the charts. This year, nearly 90 per cent of unique number one albums hit the top spot off the back of a physical sales majority, with some hugely impressive numbers from the likes of Adele, whose new album maintained its chart lead with an increasing physical majority share, and ABBA, who claimed the title of fastest-selling vinyl of the century. It’s further proof that in this golden era of choice, music fans really cherish an album they can hold!"

Releasing her fourth album in November, Adele’s 30 took the crown for the best-selling album of 2021. With first-week chart sales totaling 262,000 with 80 per cent of sales coming on physical format in December, 30 sat atop the Official Albums Chart for five weeks. It was also the second best-selling LP on vinyl, and has helped her win four 2022 BRIT Award nominations. One of those is for Song of the Year with Mastercard for Easy On Me, the lead single from 30, which scored seven weeks at No.1 on the Official Singles Chart.

Ed Sheeran also returned to dominate the Official Singles Chart, featuring on four tracks that reached No.1, including Bad Habits, which was the best-selling single of 2021, and was BRIT Certified 2x Platinum in October. He too has four nominations for the 2022 BRIT Awards.
When Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together reached No.1 in the Official Albums Chart in July it had scored the biggest opening week of 2021, with 74,000 sales. Building on the success of his 2019 debut Psychodrama, which also hit No.1 and claimed both the Hyundai Mercury Prize and Mastercard Album of the Year at the 2020 BRIT Awards, the album was also the second-best selling cassette of 2021, and the best-selling rap album of the year. Dave is also nominated in four categories at the 2022 BRIT Awards.

Since winning the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2019 BRITs, Sam Fender’s career has rocketed. He followed his 2019 No.1 debut LP Hypersonic Missiles with another in October 2021, Seventeen Going Under. Taking less than a month to go BRIT Certified Silver, the release is nominated for Mastercard Album of the Year at the 2022 BRITs (one of Fender’s three noms), and is the eleventh-best-selling vinyl LP of 2021. The album also produced the lead single of the same title – his first to break into the top 10 in the Official Singles Chart.
The continued success of physical product aided the booming British band scene. Former Hyundai Mercury Prize winners Wolf Alice returned with their third album Blue Weekend in 2021, and as well as becoming their first album to hit No.1 on the Official Albums Chart, it was the ninth best-selling vinyl LP of the year, and sixth best-selling cassette of the year. The band are nominated twice at the 2022 BRIT Awards.

One of the global breakout stars of 2021 was Olivia Rodrigo. Alongside ABBA she was one of the year’s leading international artists. She claimed the fourth best-selling album of the year with Sour, spending five non-consecutive weeks on top of the Official Albums Chart (the equal-longest run, tied with Adele). Sour was the best-selling cassette of 2021, and Rodrigo became the youngest solo artist to score a UK chart double, with good 4 u also topping the Official Singles Chart. good 4 u finished as the second best-selling single of the year, with debut single drivers license the third. Both are BRIT Certified 2x Platinum, and spent a combined total of 14 weeks at No.1 (only Ed Sheeran was at the top of the Official Singles Chart for longer).

A new wave of bands drawn from all over the UK enjoyed a strong year thanks to streaming and the appeal of physical formats, with established acts and new artists lighting up the Official Albums Charts. This breaking wave of talent, following in the slipstream of bands like IDLES and Blossoms, is exemplified by Wigan indie four-piece The Lathums, whose debut album How Beautiful Life Can Be topped the Official Albums Chart in October. The band contributed to an impressive run that saw the No.1 spot in 12 out of the 52 Official Chart weeks occupied by a British group – nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of the total for the year. This upward trend compares with a figure of 17 per cent in 2020 and 15% in 2019.

Other British bands that enjoyed breakthrough success in 2021 included Brighton-based Architects (For Those That Wish To Exist) and West Lothian band The Snuts (W.L.) – who in April became the first Scottish band to score a Number 1 debut album since 2007. Additionally Leicester’s Easy Life (Life’s A Beach) claimed a top 3 spot and topped the Official Vinyl Chart, while Oxford-based Glass Animals saw hundreds of millions of streams of their global hit Heat Waves – earning them two nominations for The BRIT Awards 2022.

There were also No.1s for established bands drawn from all over the UK: Sheffield’s Bring Me The Horizon (Post Human Survival Horror); Nottingham’s London Grammar (Californian Soil); Wales’s Manic Street Preachers (The Ultra Vivid Lament); Glaswegians Mogwai (As The Love Continues); London’s Wolf Alice (Blue Weekend); Manchester’s Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Back The Way We Came Vol 1), Brighton’s Royal Blood (Typhoons); Surrey-based You Me At Six (Suckapunch); and Coldplay (Music Of The Spheres).
Many more British groups enjoyed Top 10 success on the Official Albums Chart this year, including Shame, Black Country New Road, Pale Waves, Black Honey, Dry Cleaning and Squid.

Official Charts – 2021 best sellers and most streamed

Chart 1 – OFFICIAL ARTIST ALBUMS CHART 2021 – Official Charts Company - view full Top 40 albums
Pos. Artist & Title
1. Adele – 30
2. Ed Sheeran – =
3. ABBA – Voyage
4. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
5. Queen – Greatest Hits
6. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
7. Ed Sheeran – Divide
8. Elton John – Diamonds
9. Fleetwood Mac – 50 Years: Don’t Stop
10. Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together

Chart 2 – OFFICIAL SINGLES CHART 2021 – Official Charts Company – view full Top 40 singles
Pos. Artist & Title
1. Ed Sheeran – Bad Habits
2. Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U
3. Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License
4. The Weeknd – Save Your Tears
5. Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
6. Dua Lipa – Levitating
7. The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber – Stay
8. Glass Animals – Heat Waves
9. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
10. Tion Wayne & Russ Millions – Body

Chart 3 – OFFICIAL VINYL ARTIST ALBUMS CHART 2021 – Official Charts Company
Pos. Artist & Title
1. ABBA – Voyage
2. Adele – 30
3. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
4. Ed Sheeran – =
5. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
6. Nirvana – Nevermind
7. Queen – Greatest Hits
8. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club
9. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
10. Harry Styles – Fine Line

Chart 4 – OFFICIAL CASSETTE ARTIST ALBUMS CHART 2021 – Official Charts Company
Pos. Artist & Title
1. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
2. Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together
3. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club
4. Queen – Greatest Hits
5. Coldplay – Music Of The Spheres
6. Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
7. Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
8. Elton John – The Lockdown Sessions
9. Demi Lovato – Dancing With The Devil: The Art Of Starting Over
10. Ed Sheeran – =

Chart 5 – OFFICIAL CHARTS MOST STREAMED AUDIO TRACKS 2021 – Official Charts Company
Pos. Artist & Title
1. Ed Sheeran – Bad Habits
2. Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U
3. Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License
4. Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
5. The Weeknd – Save Your Tears
6. Dua Lipa – Levitating
7. Glass Animals – Heat Waves
8. The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber – Stay
9. Tion Wayne & Russ Millions – Body
10. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

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.

Share this!

Have your say...

Sorry guests can't post comments.

Please Login if your an existing member or Register a new account.