The UK Music Industry Grew By 12.8% In 2021 — As Digital’s Market Share Declined For the First Time

music industry

London, England. Photo Credit: Benjamin Davies

The UK music industry generated £1.26 billion (about $1.65 billion) in 2021, up 12.8 percent year over year, as “unabated” demand for vinyl contributed to digital’s first YoY decline in revenue share in nearly two decades.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) revealed these and other noteworthy stats in its newly published “All About The Music 2022″ report. Spanning about 80 pages, a number of which are dedicated entirely to ads from the likes of PPL and YouTube Music, the lengthy document shows that the UK’s streaming revenue last year improved by 13.7 percent from 2020, to £837.2 million ($1.10 billion).

Within the category, video streaming income jumped by 22.6 percent YoY (£53.7 million/$70.40 million), ad-supported streaming revenue grew by 15.7 percent (£49.1 million/$64.37 million) from 2020, and subscription streaming, while far and away the largest earner at £734.5 million/$962.93 million, turned in the lowest YoY growth rate (an even 13 percent). For 2016, the latter revenue total came in at £239.3 million/$313.72 million.

Over 8,745 artists racked up north of one million streams in the UK music industry during 2021, per the BPI, compared to 3,193 artists for at least five million 2021 streams, 1,919 artists for 10 million streams, 892 artists for 25 million streams, 440 artists for 50 million streams, 181 artists for 100 million streams, and 42 artists for 250 million streams.

Regarding the initially mentioned decline in digital’s share of revenue from sales and streaming, which the report states encompassed 147.2 billion streams in the UK during 2021 (up 5.7 percent YoY, the smallest uptick since at least 2012), the total finished at 78.4 percent, down from 78.8 percent in 2020.

Also as highlighted at the outset, the falloff is the first that the BPI has measured since it began monitoring digital in 2004. Higher-ups attributed the occurrence to downloads’ continued downturn (having slipped 23.3 percent YoY, to £33.4 million/$43.79 million) and physical’s continued growth.

On this front, UK physical-music sales reached £241.0 million/$315.95 million in 2021, the BPI breakdown relays, due to a small revenue bump from CDs (1.4 percent YoY growth, £117.2 million/$153.65 million) and another material boost from vinyl (34 percent YoY growth, £115.9 million/$151.94 million).

The “unabated” demand for vinyl (which is likewise thriving in the States) propelled the format to its “highest point in over 30 years” in the UK music industry during 2021, the BPI report discloses. LP album sales touched 5.3 million units on the year (up from 4.8 million), compared to 14.4 million for CDs (down from 16.1 million). Adele’s 30 topped the list of CD-album sales for 2021, followed by ABBA’s Voyage and Ed Sheeran’s =, respectively.

Rock accounted for 60 percent of vinyl LPs sold throughout 2021 in the UK, the BPI analysis shows, against 18.9 percent for second-ranked pop and 4.7 percent for third-ranked rap/hip-hop. The bestselling vinyl artists of the year were David Bowie, second-ranked The Beatles, third-ranked Taylor Swift, fourth-ranked Pink Floyd, and fifth-ranked ABBA (whose Voyage was nevertheless the top vinyl album).

Additionally, UK-based music fans bought 185,458 cassettes in 2021, per the BPI, against 80,404 in 2019 and just 10,912 in 2016. Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour placed first on the list of albums by 2021 cassette sales, followed by Dave’s We’re All Alone in This Together and Lana Del Rey’s Chemtrails Over the Country Club, respectively.

Lastly, in terms of interesting takeaways from “All About The Music,” the report highlights independent labels’ improved UK market share for 2021. Indie labels specifically accounted for 26.9 percent of album equivalent sales in the UK last year (up from 25.9 percent in 2020), according to the BPI, compared to 31.7 percent of physical albums (up from 30.9 percent) and 25.8 percent of streaming equivalent albums (up from 24.5 percent).

The Association of Independent Music (AIM) reached out to Digital Music News with a statement on the significance of the indie-label market-share increase in the UK music industry.

“This year-on-year growth in independent music’s market share demonstrates the independent sector’s continued success in developing the UK’s most exciting musical talent as well as its creativity, agility and hard work releasing groundbreaking music during COVID,” said AIM COO Gee Davy.

“However, with payout timelines increasingly extending over an artist’s career as streaming comes to dominate music consumption, the risks for those who sign talent at an early stage are also increasing. The sector urgently needs investment if it is to continue its role in releasing exciting and diverse music.”