LONDON — Hit records by Adele, Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran helped British music exports climb to a record high of £590.8 million ($708 million) in 2021, up 13.7% from the previous year, according to new figures released by U.K. labels trade body BPI. That’s the highest export total reported by BPI since the organization began analyzing labels’ annual overseas income in 2000.
Driving the growth was a record number of U.K. artists accumulating more than 100 million global streams in a calendar year. BPI reports that close to 400 homegrown groups or solo acts crossed the 100 million global streams marker in 2021, including Dave, Glass Animals, PinkPantheress, Wolf Alice and Rex Orange County, as well as international superstars like Adele, Dua Lipa and Sheeran.
More than 600 U.K. artists achieved at least 50 million audio streams, including rappers M1llionz and Yxng Bane, while over 1,500 surpassed 10 million audio streams, according to a BPI analysis of global sales data.
In 2020, around 300 British artists recorded more than 100 million streams, says the organization, which represents the U.K. arms of the three major record labels, as well as British independent music companies.
Worldwide, consumption of British music increased in every region last year, BPI reports, with export revenues in Europe rising 17.6% to £222.8 million ($267 million), and up 11% in North America to £248.8 million ($298 million). Asia and Latin America saw similar levels of growth.
On a country-by-country basis, U.K. music sales rose by more than 10% in the U.S., 18% in Canada and 19% in Mexico. In Europe, where U.K. music has traditionally thrived, sales were up more than 30% in Germany and over 20% in France.
Despite the strong growth in export revenues, the U.K.’s share of the global recorded music market remains around 10% — roughly level with the past several years, but significantly down from 2015 when Adele’s 25 lifted British music exports to over 17% of the global market. As recently as 2017, U.K. artists accounted for 12.9% of all music purchased or streamed around the world.
BPI says the U.K.’s gradually falling share of the global market is a result of the strong performance of other established markets, such as the U.S. and Europe, coupled with the growing international popularity of music acts from Latin America and Asia, particularly South Korea.
The growth of those rival markets means that continued success for U.K. acts isn’t guaranteed in the future, says BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor, who says increased competition from international markets is “making it harder [for U.K. acts] to cut through and putting pressure on our global market share.”
To help ensure the continued popularity of U.K. music internationally, Taylor called for more financial support from the British government. He points to the success of the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), which provides backing for independent record labels to boost the profile of their acts overseas and is jointly funded by the record industry and government, as a vital tool in helping British music “continue to thrive all around the world.”