Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith Help Boost British Music Exports

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Ed Sheeran performs during day 1 of BBC Radio 1's Biggest Weekend 2018 held at Singleton Park on May 26, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. 

Big-selling albums by Ed Sheeran, Rag‘n’Bone Man, Sam Smith and The Beatles ensured another strong year for British music exports, according to labels trade body BPI. 

It reports that one in every eight albums purchased worldwide was by a British act with U.K. artists accounting for 12.9 percent of all music purchased or streamed around the world in 2017. In terms of global market share, that figure is down on 2015 when Adele’s 25 lifted British music exports to over 17 percent, but slightly up on last year’s figure (12.5 percent) and is broadly in line with the trends of the past seven years. 

The BPI’s figures come from its own analysis of album sales in 11 of the world’s leading 15 music markets, including the U.S., Japan, Germany, U.K. and France. Collectively, these markets account for revenues of $14 billion (at trade value), representing over 80 percent of the global record business, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report 2018.

In Europe, British acts accounted for over a fifth (22 percent) of all music consumption. In the U.S., it was just under 12 percent, which equates to approximately one in every eight album purchases or $704 million in trade value. In Canada, the number was 15 percent, or nearly one in every six album sales. Australia saw British acts account for almost a quarter (24.9 percent) of music purchases.     

As to be expected, the biggest market for British acts remains the United Kingdom itself, where just under half (48 percent) of album sales were from homegrown acts.

Driving the British charge was Ed Sheeran, whose third studio set Divide was the world’s biggest-selling album of 2017, according to IFPI figures. Rag’n’Bone Man’s debut Human was the year’s second highest-selling album by a British artist worldwide, followed by Sam Smith’s The Thrill Of It All, Harry Stylesself-titled debut and Depeche Mode’s Spirit

Also in the top ten, were veteran acts Roger Waters and The Beatles, whose 50th anniversary reissue of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper's was one of the year’s best-performing albums by a U.K. artist.  

“British artists and their music continue to inspire fans all around the world,” commented BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor. “In 2017, we maintained our exceptional share of the world’s listening, consolidating our position as the second most successful music nation on earth, exporting more music than any country after the U.S.,” he said. “As Britain begins to chart its new course in international trade, it’s not idle hyperbole to claim that music has truly become Britain’s international calling card.”