Lewis Capaldi & Ed Sheeran Lift U.K. Streaming to Record High in 2019: BPI

Lewis Capaldi
Alexandra Gavillet

Lewis Capaldi

More than 110 billion music tracks streamed in the United Kingdom.

LONDON – Lewis Capaldi was the U.K.'s best-selling artist of 2019, as more than 110 billion tracks were streamed by British music fans for the first time in a single year.

According to figures released by labels trade body BPI, the equivalent of 154 million albums were streamed, purchased on physical formats or downloaded in the U.K. last year, up 7.5% on 2018.

It is the fifth consecutive year that consumption of recorded music has grown in the U.K. and the highest level since 2006. Total music streams for the year numbered 114 billion, a 3,000% rise on 2012, the first year that annual streaming figures were recorded.     

Streaming now accounts for three quarters of album equivalent sales (AES) with December seeing the highest weekly total of streams – 2.7 billion – ever recorded in the U.K., said BPI (using Official Charts Company data).    

Heading the most popular releases was Capaldi, whose breakthrough single "Someone You Loved" was streamed over 228 million times. 

The Scottish singer-songwriter also had the U.K.'s top-selling album of 2019 with his debut Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, which sold more than 640,000 units across all formats.

The year's next best-selling album was Ed Sheeran's No. 6 Collaborations Project, followed by The Greatest Showman soundtrack and Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. Also in the top 10 were George Ezra's Staying At Tamara's, the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack, Ariana Grande's Thank u next and Tom Walker's What A Time To Be Alive. In total, home-grown artists occupied six out of the top 10 year-end places.       

 "British music proved once again in 2019 that it has a bright future," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor, crediting British labels with discovering and promoting new talent and driving the growth of streaming.

Looking ahead, he warned that the "full benefits of this growth" could only be unlocked with stronger support from the British government in regards to making online platforms "pay fairly for music and filter out illegal content."

Breaking down the U.K.'s year-end figures, vinyl LP sales rose for a twelfth consecutive year with Liam Gallagher's Why Me? Why Not, 2019's best-selling vinyl release, shifting just under 30,000 copies. Vinyl now accounts for one in every eight albums sold in the U.K. with 4.3 million purchased in 2019, up 4.1% on 2018.

Cassette sales also grew to just over 80,000 -- the biggest annual total in 15 years – although it should be noted that the once-dead format still only accounts 0.1% of overall music consumption in the U.K.

CD sales continued their year-on-year decline, dropping 26% to 23.5 million units. Download album sales also tumbled to 7.3 million, down 28% on 2018's total. 

Despite the drop, deluxe and premium box sets proved to be a popular purchase with over 100,000 people buying Queen's Platinum Collection on CD. Anniversary releases by Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles also sold in significant number on physical formats.