Ed Sheeran and Adele Help Propel British Music Exports 11 Percent to $480 Million

Mike Marsland/WireImage
Adele attends the BRIT Awards 2016 at The O2 Arena on Feb. 24, 2016 in London. 

Huge selling albums by Adele, Ed Sheeran and David Bowie have helped British music exports climb to record levels, contributing nearly £4.4 billion ($5.8 billion) to the U.K.'s overseas earnings since 2000, according to new figures from labels trade body BPI.

In the past decade alone international revenues have climbed by 72 percent, reports BPI, with music exports in 2016 up 11 percent year-on-year to total £365 million ($480 million) -- the highest return since BPI began its annual survey at the turn of the century.

The growth reflects the enduring global appeal of British music, says BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor, who said that with Britain having voted to the leave the E.U, "the U.K. needs businesses that are true global superstars."

"Music by brilliant British artists such as Ed Sheeran, Adele, David Bowie, Coldplay and Sam Smith is streamed and purchased the world over, boosting the UK's balance of payments," continued Taylor, calling on the U.K. government to help ensure that U.K. acts "can tour freely post-Brexit and that third countries robustly protect music rights."

BPI cites the "phenomenal global demand" for Adele's 25 album, coupled with strong international sales of Coldplay's A Head Full of Dreams and The Rolling Stones' Blue & Lonesome with driving 2016's high exports. The death of David Bowie at the start of the year also led to a huge spike in overseas catalog sales, as well as his final album Blackstar, said the trade organization.

It also credits long term investment in A&R by U.K. record labels, global uptake of streaming services and government run initiatives like the Music Exports Growth Scheme (which BPI manages) with helping grow international sales and cementing the U.K.'s status as the world's biggest exporter of recorded music after the U.S.

The top five international territories for British labels in 2016 were the U.S., Germany, France, Australia and Canada, although developing markets like China, Turkey and several South American territories are becoming increasingly significant territories, says BPI. It adds that India and South Korea also have the potential to become important overseas markets in future.

"This fantastic economic success is a huge testament to the U.K. music industry and the wealth of talent and creativity underpinning it," commented Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital at the Department for Digital, Culture, Sport & Media.

"Not only is music a crucial factor in bringing international investment to our shores," he added, "but it is also the introduction to British culture for many people around the world."