Measured according to album equivalent sales (AES), indie labels’ share of music consumption rose to 26% in 2020, marking a third successive year of growth. Data is drawn from the BPI’s All About The Music yearbook for 2021 and is based on figures from the Official Charts Company.
The data also revealed that independent businesses’ share of streaming equivalent albums (SEAs) has grown in each of the past five years, while physical sales remain a key factor in the success of independent records.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI & The BRIT Awards, said: “The independent community lies at the heart of our vibrant music scene, consistently innovating to make the UK a dynamic and competitive incubator of diverse new talent. Indie labels and their artists are harnessing the global reach of streaming, introducing new models for artist/label partnerships, and are playing a key role in the revival of vinyl and resilience of CD. They help to ensure the music industry is teeming with creativity, and that fans and artists have more choice than ever.”
AIM CEO Paul Pacifico said: “Independent music businesses are the home of innovation and experimentation in the UK music industry. Our community of creative entrepreneurs keeps music moving forwards. As streaming offers consumers ever more opportunity to discover and enjoy diverse and eclectic music, it is no wonder that independent market share continues to grow, even in the face of industry consolidation.”
It is no wonder that independent market share continues to grow, even in the face of industry consolidation
Paul Pacifico, AIM
The independents’ highest format share in 2020 was vinyl LPs (35%), while in the first three months of 2021, independent artists claimed nearly four in every 10 vinyl records purchased in the UK. The biggest-selling independent artists in 2020 included Arctic Monkeys, Idles, Fontaines DC (pictured), and Gerry Cinnamon. More than 250 independent titles sold over 1,000 copies on vinyl. Sales of the format have now risen for a 13th successive year, going up by 11.5% in 2020 with 4.8 million LPs purchased.
Independent artists also claimed close to 30% of all CD sales in 2020, and 32.5% in Q1 this year.
Jeff Bell of Partisan Records, said: “Being independent is about culture and community. Both of these ideas tend to start outside (or at best, on the fringes of) what is commercially viable in the traditional sense, so genuinely adding value to artists takes time, agility, and a partnership in the truest sense of the word. As the landscape keeps evolving at the pace it is, the demand for, and success of these flexible approaches will only continue to grow.”
Pat Carr, Remote Control Agency, said: “For years, the Independent sector has survived and thrived by having to be more creative, extra adaptable and super nimble. We work hard alongside and hand in hand with our artists and management teams on cultivating a close and personal relationship with the fans, strong D2C, digital marketing, DSP relationships and socials strategies Also, crucially, working with the network of Independent record stores both on and offline that are still very much part of music discovery in this current market. This hands-on and attention to detail approach enables the indies to compete more and more within the mainstream – which is great to see!”
The independents help to ensure the music industry is teeming with creativity
Geoff Taylor, BPI
This year, 13 albums – including new releases from Celeste, Tom Grennan, The Snuts and more – have topped the UK charts with a physical majority, with Wolf Alice set to add to that tally this week. All 13 had a majority share of more than 60% physical sales and are part of the longest run of such chart-toppers since 2019, when 15 records hit No.1 with majority physical sales.
Drew Hill, MD Proper Music Distribution, said: "2021 is on its way to becoming a particularly strong year for CDs and vinyl, with 18 out of the year’s 22 #1 albums so far boasting a physical sales majority. It’s clear fans appreciate choice, and the different roles that streaming and physical play – discovery v tangible ownership – are proving to complement each other well."