U.K. Music Industry Raked in $6 Billion in 2016; 'Free Ride' for YouTube Needs to End, Group Says

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Adele performs in 2017.

Britain continues to punch well above its weight when it comes to selling music around the world, but more must be done to tackle the 'value gap' if it is to continue to thrive, warns a new report from umbrella trade organization UK Music.

In 2016, the British music industry grew by 6 percent year-on-year, contributing £4.4 billion ($6 billion) to the U.K. economy, according to its annual "Measuring Music" study.

Over half of that total came from music exports generated by hit British acts like Ed Sheeran, Adele, Coldplay and the Rolling Stones, who helped collectively earn £2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) in international revenues, up 13 percent on 2015.

The U.K.'s prosperous live industry grew by 14 percent to bring in a further £1 billion ($1.3 billion), while there was also strong growth in recorded music (£640 million combining, up 5 percent) and publishing (£473 million).

As a result, employment across the whole of the British music industry climbed by 19 percent to over 142,000 jobs with just under 90,000 classified as musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists.

The total live audience for music in the U.K. in 2016 was 30.9 million people, comprising of 27 million concert goers and 3.8 million people attending festivals, with live music being the industry's second highest employer, accounting for over 28,000 jobs.

"The headline figures in this year's Measuring Music report are undoubtedly excellent news," said UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher, noting that the "outlook for the music business is better than it has been in years." 

He did, however, warn of an urgent "need to address the 'value gap' on the new and exciting platforms that many people now use to listen to music" if the industry is to continue on its upward curve. 

"There is still too often a culture of denial from the big tech firms," complained Daughter making a clear reference to user generated platforms like Google-owned YouTube which "offer little adequate reward to the investors and creators of the music that drives so much of their traffic." 

"The way people listen to music may be changing, but certain fundamental responsibilities must continue," he continued, stating, "It's time for the free ride to come to an end."

"The behaviour of some platforms and distributors in hiding from their responsibilities by taking advantage of the ever more anachronistic 'safe harbour' has no place in a modern economy," added UK Music chairman Andy Heath. "The pace of change is rapid and we need to respond just as rapidly," he said.  

Also included in the "Measuring Music" report are the results of an industry-wide question that UK Music posed its members around the issue of Brexit.  

Out of around 1,200 musicians, composers, songwriters, lyricists, producers, execs and artist managers who responded, only 2 percent thought Brexit would have a positive impact on their business and 50 percent feared leaving the EU would have a negative cost. One in five (19.5 percent) believed Brexit would have no impact at all.