UK Streaming Sales Cross £1B for First Time

Mark Surridge
Ed Sheeran

That’s four times as much as Brits spent on streaming music just five years ago.

LONDON – Streaming sales crossed £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in the U.K. in 2019, helping drive a 7.1% rise in overall music spending, according to year-end figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association.

ERA’s findings follow on the heels of the BPI’s annual report, which found that a record 114 billion tracks were streamed in the U.K. last year and the equivalent of 154 million albums were purchased across all formats, up 7.5% on 2018.

Where ERA’s preliminary figures differ from BPI’s is that they focus on retail spending in the U.K., whereas BPI's measure music consumption levels. Both organizations use Official Charts Company data as the basis for their reporting, although ERA’s streaming numbers are estimates based on information provided by digital services and label trade income reported to BPI.

Key takeaways from ERA’s analysis of the British entertainment market include a 17% fall in physical sales, which totaled £318 million ($418 million). Around a third of those sales were vinyl purchases, which grew 6.4% year-on-year to £97 million ($127 million). Meanwhile, download purchases tumbled 27% to just under £90 million ($118 million).

Offsetting the decline was a 23% rise in streaming subscription sales, which broke through the £1 billion ($1.3 billion) barrier for the first time. That’s four times as much as Brits spent on streaming music just five years ago and a mammoth 31 times the level in 2010 when streaming sales totaled just £31 million ($41 million at current market rates).  

Total recorded music spending in the U.K. across all formats was £1.4 billion last year, a 7.1% rise on 2018.  

As previously reported, Lewis Capaldi’s debut Divinely Inspired to a Hellish Extent was the biggest-selling album of the year in the U.K. with sales of around 641,000. Just over 60% of those were consumed on streaming and digital services.

Ed Sheeran’s No. 6 Collaborations Project was the next best-seller (568,000 units/63% digital), followed by The Greatest Showman soundtrack (523,000 units/60% digital) and Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (370,000 units/73% digital).   

Looking back on the decade as a whole, ERA reports a 19.1% rise in music sales when comparing 2019’s figures to 2010 when total music spending in the U.K. was around £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion at current market rates). 

Back then, physical made up the bulk of all music sales with £872 million ($1.1 billion at current rates) passing through cash registers on CD and vinyl purchases. Today’s total of £318 million represents a 63% drop. Download sales have fallen 68% over the same 10-year period.

Looking back, ERA CEO Kim Bayley said 2019 marks “the end of one of the most tumultuous decades in UK entertainment history.” She credited the innovation and investment of digital services and retailers with driving the transformation from a physical ownership market to one of digital consumption. 

“As more and more people sign up to streaming services, it obviously becomes a challenge to maintain the same rate of growth,” said Bayley. “But the fact is UK music fans spent £190 million more on subscription streaming services in 2019 than they did the year before -- that’s more than twice the value of the entire vinyl market.”


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