U.K. Music Sales Grow 1.5 Percent In 2016 as Streaming, Vinyl See Massive Gains

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Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 20, 2016 in Pasadena, Calif.

Strong growth in streaming helped music sales in the U.K. increase by 1.5 percent in 2016, according to annual figures from labels trade body BPI.

A total of 123 million equivalent album units were streamed, purchased on physical format and downloaded by British music consumers last year, with the total volume of music sales across all formats equivalent to more than approximately £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in retail.

BPI notes that 2015 was a '53 week' chart year, with retailers benefitting from an extra week's trading. Applying a like-for-like sales metric over a 52 week period, the rise in music consumption would have been higher at around 4 percent.   

As to be expected, streaming was the main driver in fueling consumption, with 45 billion audio streams delivered in 2016 -- up 68 percent year-on-year and up 500 percent on just three years ago. That's equivalent to over 1,500 streams for each of the U.K.'s 27 million households. The number would also be far higher were video streams from platforms like YouTube included in Official Charts Company data.

December also saw British music fans listen to over 1 billion audio streams in a single week -- the first time that such a milestone has been crossed. Audio streaming now accounts for over a third (36 percent) of all U.K. music consumption.

"We believe this performance is indicative of the promise of a new era for music, where recorded music's investments in a digital future fuel compelling benefits for fans, artists and the entire music ecosystem," says BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor, noting the resilience of physical formats in the digital era, most notably vinyl.

In 2016 over 3.2 million vinyl albums were sold in the U.K., up 53 percent on 2015 and the highest annual total since 1991. While still very much a niche format, vinyl now accounts for nearly 5 percent of the U.K. albums market and 2.6 percent of its overall recorded music market. Significantly, over 30 titles sold more than 10,000 copies in 2016, compared to just 10 in 2015, with David Bowie's Blackstar the year's biggest selling 12", followed by Amy Winehouse's Back To Black and the soundtrack to Guardians Of The Galaxy.

CD sales fell by 11.7 percent in the same period, although still accounts for just over 40 percent of total music consumption throughout the U.K. with 47 million units sold in the calendar year.

"We've definitely entered a multi-channel era," says Vanessa Higgins, CEO of Regent Street and Gold Bar Records, and an independent label member of BPI Council, noting that the CD "remains popular both with upcoming artists, who need an attractive physical product, and consumers, who still like to gift, collect and own the recordings they love."

In line with previous years, download sales continued to fall and now account for just 22 percent of Brits' music consumption, with digital album sales and track equivalent albums totaling just under 28 million, down from 39 million the previous year.

Adele's 25 was the UK's best-selling artist album for the second year running and has now sold a total of 3.2 million copies in the singer's home country. Coldplay's A Head Full Of Dreams was the year's second biggest selling artist album, followed by the Michael Ball and Alfie Boe's duets collection Together, which was 2016's most purchased new artist release despite the fact that neither Ball or Boe (aged 54 and 43, respectively) are exactly what you would call ‘new' artists.   

Now 95 was the year's best-selling album title overall, with the Now compilation series occupying three spaces in 2016's top 5.

In the singles chart, Drake's "One Dance" featuring Wizkid and Kyla was the year's biggest selling release, beating Lukas Graham's "7 Years" and Sia's "Cheap Thrills" to the top spot.

"One Dance" was also the most streamed song in the U.K. in 2016, while Drake additionally topped the Official Charts Most Streamed Artist tally, ahead of Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Kanye West.