British Recorded Music Industry Eeks a Modest 2021 Gain as 1,918 Artists Surpass 10 Million Domestic Streams

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London, England, as seen from Primrose Hill. Photo Credit: [Duncan]

The UK music industry’s total streams reached 147 billion in 2021 – a 5.7 percent increase from 2020 – as streaming accounted for 83 percent of the market’s overarching music consumption, according to newly released data from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

The 49-year-old music industry organization revealed these and other noteworthy stats in its just-published yearend consumption report, having shed light upon the 2021 UK sales of physical music (including vinyl, which enjoyed its 14th consecutive year of domestic growth) last week.

Overall, the BPI said that UK music consumption grew 2.5 percent year over year in 2021, to 159 million albums and album equivalents streamed or purchased by fans. (Eight of the 10 best-selling albums on the year, excepting ABBA’s third-ranked Voyage and Olivia Rodrigo’s fourth-ranked Sour, were released by UK artists, per the analysis.)

Within this relatively modest consumption growth, UK-based fans racked up 147 billion individual audio streams, as mentioned at the outset, which mark a 5.7 percent YoY boost and come out to about 132 million streamed albums (likewise a 5.7 percent improvement).

For reference, the BPI in its yearend consumption report for 2020 indicated that music consumption had hiked 8.2 percent year over year, to 155 million albums or album equivalents. Also during the 53-week-long stretch (as opposed to 52 weeks for the 2019 reporting period), streaming accounted for 80.6 percent of music consumption in the UK, per the breakdown. 2020’s 139 billion audio streams represented an even 22 percent gain against 2019.

2021’s increasing (but comparatively small) streaming volume for the UK music industry could suggest that a wider plateau is approaching, and it’ll be worth seeing how the stateside music industry’s own streaming market performed throughout 2021.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in its 2021 half-year report said that streaming’s domestic revenue had cracked $5.9 billion – up 26 percent YoY, for 84 percent of H1 2021’s total. (The BPI will release the UK music industry’s 2021 revenue totals later this year.)

The BPI’s 2021 report also disclosed that 1,918 artists had generated north of 10 million streams apiece in the UK (not including global plays), up from 1,798 in 2020 and 1,537 in 2019. “It means nearly twice as many artists are now earning meaningful royalties as could do so in the CD era,” the trade association wrote, further noting that just 1,092 artists had sold 10,000 CDs (equivalent to 10 million streams) in 2007.

Of course, this emphasis – as well as the idea that growth within the UK music industry is being “fuelled by record label investment” – arrives as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) conducts a “probe into music streaming,” following a comprehensive investigation and report from a parliamentary committee.

2 Responses

  1. Johnny

    Don’t forget Artists usually see nothing until they have recouped the costs of making their music, marketing expenses etc. The huge majority never see a dime, while all the money goes to the Record companies and not the Artists

    • Will

      You’re partially correct, but seem to have skewed the fact a little. The artists is actually getting money up front to cover costs. While this isn’t “making money” to pay bills or buy food, it does pay for expenses related to advancing their career and growing their brand. Artists who succeed will see a dime, and potentially a lot more, after they pay back the advance, so the Record companies don’t get “all the money”. They get the money they advanced.

      And, again, if the artist and their music are worthy, they grow a brand which they can shop to other labels in the future, other companies for endorsement deals, etc. parlaying that brand into more money…none of which the original record label will see (unless they signed a 360 deal).