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Global music markets focus – The UK

Highly influential in the global music industry, the UK is home to some of the most popular music artists. Streaming is the music format of choice with 2019 a record £1 billion in revenue from paid streaming.

Breakingpic From Pexels
Breakingpic From Pexels

Home to some of the world’s biggest artists such as Adele and Elton John, the UK is one of the biggest music revenue generators in the world. Earlier this year, ERA (Entertainment Retailers Association) reported that music revenues in the UK reached over £1.4 billion in 2019 (MusicAlly, 2020). In their latest collections report, CISAC ranked the UK in 5th place for music revenues in 2018, accounting for €671 million (CISAC, 2019). This is also good news for local artists. PRS for Music, an organisation representing UK songwriters, composers and publishers in the UK, shared that they collected £810.8 million for its members. This record number was an increase of 8.7% on the previous year (PRS for Music, 2020). The BPI and BRIT awards president Geoff Taylor shared that “British music proved once again in 2019 that it has a bright future. Strong demand for streaming music and vinyl, fuelled by the investment and innovation of UK labels in discovering and promoting new talent, boosted music consumption to levels not seen for 15 years” (BPI, 2020).

Paid streaming is a massive contributor to overall music revenues. ERA reported that streaming generated record levels of revenue – £1 billion. This accounted for 72% of all revenue generated that year. A lucrative market for streaming platforms, paid subscriptions grew by 23.5% (MusicAlly, 2020) In just one year the number of streams grew by 25.6%, from 90.9 billion streams in 2018 to 114.2 billion streams in 2019. The upwards trajectory of streaming in this market can be demonstrated by The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) who shared that streaming has grown 3,000% in the UK since the first annual figures were available, in 2012 (BPI, 2020).

With such a large spend on paid streaming, what is the platform of choice for Britons? In 2018 data from a MusicAlly report with BPI shared that of consumers who had recently streamed music, both free and paid, 74% had used Spotify. When zoning in on the paid users, the figure for Spotify was 42%. However, due to the popularity of Amazon Prime memberships, 26% of the listeners who paid did this through their Prime Music offering. This is a distinct advantage that Amazon may have to grow its music streaming in the UK, with the local offering (MusicAlly, 2018).

Music streaming users traverse the age demographics. While younger listeners make the majority of music streamers, recent ERA figures state that the 55+ age group is the group experiencing the most growth in the UK (Music Business Worldwide, 2020). While recently online radio has seen a resurgence in the UK, with BBC reporting +15% growth, streaming is most popular for new music discovery (BBC, 2020). In an Accenture and Facebook IQ study, in the UK 40% of regular music streamers said they were very satisfied with their ability to find new music. For primarily radio listeners, this number was just 29% (The Drum 2020).

The global cultural footprint of British music on the world is vast. From trailblazers such as The Beatles and David Bowie to modern day superstars like Adele, British artists are some of the most listened to worldwide. Local artists are very popular with many experiencing chart success at home before global accolades. Speaking of the importance of streaming for local artists Vanessa Higgins, CEO of Regent Street Records shared that “It’s great to see streaming continue to grow and smash through ever impressive landmark numbers. As an independent label owner I would always encourage music lovers to stream their favourite artists, as it’s such an easy way to support the smaller musicians.” BPI shared that in the UK the most streamed track of 2019 was Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved. The song was a home success with the Scottish artist achieving 228 million UK streams of the song (BPI, 2020). The song also ranked high on global streaming charts and topped the Billboard Hot 100. Local genres such as Grime, which emerged from London, are also wildly popular in the UK with artists such as Stormzy and Skepta achieving chart and award success.

Ketut Subiyanto From Pexels
Ketut Subiyanto From Pexels

Globally, UK artist Ed Sheeran appeared on international streaming lists. In 2019, Forbes listed him as the 4th most streamed artist on Spotify that year (Forbes, 2019). As a stronghold of music, it is no surprise that the Glastonbury Music Festival is one of the most famous in the world. In 2019 the tickets sold out almost instantly with 2.4 million people trying to purchase some of the 135,000 tickets (The Guardian, 2019). Unfortunately, similar to other global events, the festival was postponed in 2020.

As for electronic music, the UK has many top selling DJs. Forbes named Calvin Harris as the top earning DJ for 6 years until 2019, however he still remained in the top 3 (Forbes, 2019). PRS For Music has also shared that they are a member of the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM). This international group works in the interest of growing and supporting this music genre, with a particular focus on music recognition technology. MRT is used to identify licenced electronic music played in clubs and at festivals so that royalties can be paid to the artist (PRS for Music, 2020).

Despite the large thriving music industry in the UK, artists have spoken out about the effects that Covid-19 is having on their careers. This is particularly true for the live music industry which has come to a standstill. Groups such as the Music Venues Trust and the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign have lobbied the UK government for support at this time. The Prime Minister announced a £1.75 billion emergency support fund for the arts on the 5th of July. This funding will hopefully help regrow the live music industry once restrictions are lifted (Music Business Worldwide, 2020).

With one of the highest music revenues in the world and as the home of music icons, what happens in the UK industry has great influence across the world. Many artists have recognised the growth of streaming and how the system is not operating properly for them to receive their due royalties. (, 2020). Local music rights organisations must work in the interest of artists to address these issues.

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