Streaming Continues to Explode in Britain, Record Sales Inch Up

Continued growth in streaming and a softening decline in CD and download sales helped lift UK music sales in the first six months of 2015, according to new figures released by British labels trade body BPI.

Using the Album Equivalent Sales (AES) metric, which measures physical, digital album and single sales alongside audio streams, overall consumption of recorded music rose by 4 percent year to date, compared to the same period in 2014, to total 54.8 million units.

Mainstream adoption of streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer has undoubtedly fuelled some of the reported growth, with the first 26 weeks of 2015 seeing 11.5 billion tracks streamed in the U.K. Compare that to the total number of tracks streamed in all of 2014: 14.8 billion. That was, in turn, double 2013’s yearly figure.

The most-streamed track of the year to date was Mark Ronson’s "Uptown Funk," which has been played 45 million times on British audio streaming services in 2015. BPI and Official Charts Company (OCC) data indicates that just under 60 other tracks have been played over 10 million times so far this year, with 480 million streams taking place on legal platforms in the U.K. every week. That number is only likely to grow in the second half of year, following the recent launch of Apple Music, believes BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor, who says that the platform "will give further impetus to the revolution of music streaming."  

"The precise impact of Apple Music in 2015 is hard to predict, but U.K. labels have reinvented their businesses for a multi-channel world, are investing heavily in talent and are offering fans greater choice and value than ever before," Taylor said in a statement accompanying the figures.

In addition to increased uptake of streaming services, a slowing decline in physical format sales also contributed to the enhanced performance. Although combined CD and vinyl LP sales fell by 4.4 percent in the first half of this year (totalling 22.2 million units, over 90 percent of which were CD sales) that marks a dramatic improvement on the equivalent period in 2014 when numbers tumbled by over 10 percent year-on-year. BPI cites the strong performance of compilation albums such as the Now series alongside the niche resurgence of vinyl -- up 56 percent year-on-year so far in 2015 -- with driving physical’s enduring appeal.  

Download sales experienced similarly mixed fortunes, with digital album sales falling by 6.6 percent year-to-date (from 14.8 million units to 13.9 million), compared with a 9 percent fall in all twelve months of 2014.