Latin Music Week

Ed Sheeran & Dua Lipa Help U.K. Music Biz Record Biggest Rise Since Mid-1990s

Ed Sheeran poses on the red carpet on arrival for the BRIT Awards 2018 in London on Feb. 21, 2018.

Recorded music sales in the United Kingdom rose by over 10 percent in 2017 -- the fastest rate of growth since the mid-1990s when Blur, Pulp and Oasis were shifting millions of records and dominating the airwaves. 

Today, it’s Ed Sheeran, Little Mix and Dua Lipa leading the British charge, although the music retail landscape has changed irrevocably over the past two decades and total sales still remain some way off the late 1990s/early 2000s peak years when U.K. revenues topped £1 billion ($1.4 billion at today’s currency rates).

In 2017 the figure stood at £839 million ($1.2 billion), according to the BPI’s “All About The Music 2018” yearbook, up 10.6 percent on the previous year and the highest total level since 2010. 

Driving the growth was a 45 percent leap in streaming subscription revenues (£347 million/$492 million), while total streaming sales (encompassing ad-supported and video streaming) generated £389 million ($552 million). 

That’s a rise of 41 percent on the previous year, although BPI notes that the figure would be “much higher were it not for the continuing distortion in the market-place” caused by USG platforms like YouTube paying far lower rates of royalties than streaming services. 

Hitting out at the so-called "value gap," the BPI says video streaming contributed just £27 million ($38 million) to industry revenue, despite its huge audience.  

Revenues from streaming (combining subscription, ad-supported and video) now make up nearly half (46 percent) of all U.K. music sales with downloads accounting for 13.5 percent and CDs making up 30 percent of all music purchases. The rest is made up of vinyl (6.6 percent) and sync (2.7 percent). 

The BPI’s annual report does not include label revenues from public performance, which will be announced separately by U.K. collection society PPL at a later date.

As previously reported, 135 million albums or their equivalent were sold in 2017, a rise of 9.5 percent on the previous year and the biggest sales spike since 1998.Helping fuel the growth was big-selling records from Ed Sheeran, Little Mix and Sam Smith, coupled with successful breakthroughs by home-grown artists like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Dua Lipa and Stormzy

A separate analysis of Official Charts Company data by the London-based Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) -- also published at the start of the year -- estimated the U.K. retail value of recorded music totaled £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) across all formats. The discrepancy between BPI and ERA figures is down to the fact that ERA’s estimates include retail margins and VAT (sales tax), whereas the BPI’s reporting focuses purely on the income earned by record labels.

“The changes labels have made to their business models and their investment in new talent have borne fruit with rapid revenue growth in 2017,” comments BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor in a statement accompanying the “All About The Music 2018” yearbook. 

Despite predicting “a continuing rise in 2018,” he nevertheless warns that “music still has a long way to go to recover fully and achieve long-term sustainable growth.” 

“In particular, Government action is needed to remedy the continuing “Value Gap”, so that all digital platforms pay fairly for their use of music, and with the transition period following Brexit now agreed, it is vital that British musicians can tour freely in the EU once we leave,” says Taylor. 

“These measures are essential,” he states, “given the increasing competition the U.K. faces in a more global streaming market.”