As UK music market grows 10% in Q1, BPI CEO Jo Twist addresses the chart squeeze for British talent

As UK music market grows 10% in Q1, BPI CEO Jo Twist addresses the chart squeeze for British talent

The UK recorded music market (AES – Album Equivalent Sales) increased by 10% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024, according to data from the BPI

In another strong quarter, the UK’s streaming market was up 11.3% year-on-year in Q1. Based on the streaming equivalent albums (SEA) measurement, consumption reached 43,096,326 in the quarter.

Physical also performed well during the first three months of the year with a 2.4% year-on-year increase to   3,891,065 units. Vinyl registered an 11.5% increase compared to Q1 of last year with 1,475,635 sold. 

CD sales fell by 2.3% year-on-year to 2,383,681 units, although that’s a much slower rate of decline than the 11% drop for the format in the first quarter of 2023.

Look closer at what’s driving consumption so far in 2024, though, and the UK charts have been largely dominated by US talent in the quarter. 

In the Top 10 singles rankings for Q1, there are just two entries by UK acts (one of which is catalogue title Murder On The Dancefloor). As revealed in Alan Jones’ charts analysis, in chart week 13 the singles Top 10 had no UK acts for the first time since the 1950s.

The biggest album of Q1 was Vermont singer-songwriter Noah Kahan’s Stick Season (123,176 sales in the quarter), while the single of the same name amassed consumption of 857,904 units over the same period.

In addition to Stick Season, the Top 5 albums in the first quarter are made up of LPs from The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Eminem. As well as Swedish stars ABBA at No.8 with the Gold hits collection (Polydor), the Top 10 includes Ariana Grande at No.9 and Taylor Swift’s Midnight’s (EMI) at No.10. 

While British artists with current albums were represented in the Top 10 in every quarter of 2023, only catalogue titles by UK acts make the Q1 Top 10 list – Anglo-American veterans Fleetwood Mac with 50 Years – Don’t Stop (No.6) and Elton John’s Diamonds (No.7).

In the Top 20 for Q1, there are two current releases  from British talent: The Last Dinner Party’s Prelude To Ecstasy (No.15) and Lewis Capaldi’s Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (No.19). In the Top 30 for the quarter, successful UK campaigns this year are represented by Liam Gallagher & John Squire, Rod Stewart & Jools Holland and D-Block Europe, while Raye has rebounded with My 21st Century Blues following her BRITs haul. Raye also made the Q1 singles Top 10 with Casso and D-Block Europe collaboration Prada.

While UK star Dua Lipa is set for a chart impact in Q2 with new album Radical Optimism next month, the quarter also has major releases from US artists including Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Beyoncé, whose Cowboy Carter album had the biggest opening of the year to date (39,990 units) in the first week of Q2. 

Here, BPI chief executive Dr Jo Twist addresses the chart squeeze for UK talent as well as the market performance in Q1…

How positive should we be about UK breakthroughs and returning UK acts in Q1?

“We should certainly be encouraged by the emergence of a new generation of British talent, which we also saw spotlighted at the BRIT Awards 2024 with Mastercard and reflected across its nominations. Our talent is increasingly diverse, which helps make our industry and its human artistry more representative. The breakthrough of The Last Dinner Party, both commercially with their No.1 album Prelude to Ecstasy and as BRITs Rising Star winners, is particularly welcome. Along with the remarkable recent success of Raye and other artists, we hope this inspires more women into the industry and into genres such as rock, which is something many of us would like to see.

“If we look at other weekly performances in the first quarter, there are signs of further progress that bodes well for the future. Albums by The Reytons, Jamie Webster, Declan McKenna, The Snuts and Potter Payper all made the Top 5, while releases by Red Rum Club, Skrapz and Caity Baser reached The top 10. Right now, the debut LP from The K’s is currently at No.2 on the official album charts midweeks."

It’s essential that we are supporting new artists and the diverse talent ecosystem across the UK

Dr Jo Twist

There's a strong representation for US artists in Q1. Does this underline the challenge in a global streaming market?

“In 2022 the year’s Top 10 singles were all by British artists, but we need to keep an eye on a trend that’s been developing for a while that is seeing fewer British breakthroughs overall. Part of the explanation is cyclical, and it is reasonable to suggest that we are transitioning from one generation to the next, but we must acknowledge, as we have been highlighting for some time, that the global streaming market is becoming more competitive. We need to protect our share of global exports and the sales and streams of British artists at home.

“It’s essential that we are supporting new artists and the diverse talent ecosystem across the UK. We are playing our part with a political and practical emphasis on music and creative arts education, which is why the BPI and its members plan to open a new specialist school in Bradford inspired by the world class BRIT School in Croydon and by ELAM in East London. But we should also support grassroots music venues, the launchpad for so many artists.  

“We would also like to see government continue to support and even strengthen funding into the successful Music Export Growth Scheme, which returns nearly £14 for every pound received. It is not a coincidence that four of the Top 10 acts in the world last year, according to the IFPI, were South Korean, whose government invests around £25 million into their industry annually.  As an industry we need to work together to continue to grow British music and in supporting labels in doing what they are best at – nurturing and developing exciting new talent. It’s also vital that we work with our partners across the creative industries to realise the positive potential of AI, which can only happen if copyrighted works are used by tech companies with permission and transparency.”

Catalogue continues to dominate with regular anniversaries to revive consumption. Is there a danger this hinders chart campaigns by new acts?

“I think we have to be a little careful here, including how we talk about catalogue. It’s common for a new album to be actively promoted for anything up to three years or more, and enduring success with ‘catalogue’ titles helps labels invest in emerging talent and new music, which we know they are passionate about. Catalogue may be well established to some of us, but to younger fans just starting out on their journey of music education, those albums are new to them. So I don’t see catalogue as a block to new music: the two can have a complementary, symbiotic relationship. We just have to find more compelling ways to spotlight and develop new music. “   

Following DSP subscription price rises, do these Q1 figures suggest that the UK streaming market remains resilient and will continue to grow?

“We are mindful that there has to be the right balance between price and supply and demand.  But music, including streaming subscriptions, has been such great value for so long, fans know they have been getting a really great deal. Even with any modest rises in price, music on streaming services and all the incredible choice that comes with this, still represents amazing value. So even allowing for maturing markets, we believe there is scope for continued growth as new consumers enter the market.”  

I don’t see catalogue as a block to new music: the two can have a complementary, symbiotic relationship

Dr Jo Twist

Vinyl has performed particularly well including new releases by Liam Gallagher & John Squire and The Last Dinner Party. With Record Store Day approaching and the buzz about superfans, what's the outlook for further growth?

“The growth we are seeing is quite remarkable – 16 years of consecutive rises, with growth in Q1 in double digits. There can be no room for complacency, but we feel there are a number of factors at play. Fundamentally, it comes down to vinyl’s increasing appeal as a collectible art form. Buyers appear drawn to the beautifully presented, limited deluxe editions they are clearly so passionate about owning and enjoying alongside their day-to-day use of streaming services. We also have superfans, who are helping to fuel demand alongside a new and diverse generation of music fans, who are discovering and enjoying albums on vinyl for their first time.”    

And is the CD revival almost underway with just a small year-on-year dip?

“This has been bubbling away for a year or two now with the marked decline in CD slowing. We need to keep all this in perspective, when you compare the volumes to pre-digital era sales levels, but it’s encouraging, and a trend that has been exciting our independent label members. It’s potentially great news for retail too – for more indie stores that are flourishing and an HMV chain that is once again expanding.

“At the moment, CD is only marginally down on the year, and we could be looking at a situation come year-end where the BPI reports on the first growth in the physical market overall since 2004. We need more data, but, anecdotally it seems that part of this gradual turnaround in CD’s fortunes is once again down to superfans, who collect music by the artists they love on all formats, and also younger consumers who quite simply see the CD as brilliant value for money – which it is – and perhaps have fewer negative perceptions of the format, having grown up after its initial post downloads decline.”

What's the outlook for the market in Q2, particularly with huge releases from artists including Beyonce (out now) and (forthcoming) from Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish?

“It’s brilliant to have such major album releases coming down the line – not just because of their huge commercial potential, and all the positives this creates for our industry, but because these global superstar artists connect with the wider public and media as well as their super-fanbases. This means they can be a catalyst for promoting more sales and streams and for further growth in music consumption, which benefits the whole music ecosystem.”

Click here for more on the Q1 sales performance across albums and singles.


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