Analysis of market figures for 2023 has revealed the increasing power of catalogue in music consumption.
The UK market registered a ninth consecutive year of growth. According to BPI data, sales and streams increased by 10% year-on-year to 182.8 million equivalent albums.
However, new albums had to compete with greatest hits and classic LPs, which became further entrenched in the charts. While streaming consumption (SEA – streaming equivalent albums) was up 12%, key catalogue titles performed ahead of the market.
Consumption of albums classified as catalogue by the OCC was up 13.1% in 2023, with catalogue’s share up from 65.9% to 67.5%. For streaming alone, catalogue consumption increased by 15.1%.
In the year-end rankings, The Weeknd’s 2021 collection, The Highlights, was at No.1 (391,269 sales – Official Charts Company).
It was one of seven catalogue-based titles in the year-end Top 10, including Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) at No.3 (299,479 sales). That was the only 2023 release in the Top 10, alongside 2022 LPs by Harry Styles, SZA and Swift (Midnights).
Based on Music Week analysis in our latest edition of the magazine, 15 catalogue-based titles (including both editions of Taylor Swift’s 1989) finished in the year-end Top 20 for 2023, compared to 13 in the prior year.
Here, BPI CEO Dr Jo Twist OBE addresses the impact of catalogue, the challenge for new talent and overall market growth…
How would you assess the streaming market growth in 2023, and what’s the outlook for continuing growth in streaming as the UK potentially reaches a peak in terms of subscribers?
“The streaming market had another incredibly successful year in 2023, with consumption of audio streams growing at a faster rate than in both 2021 and 2022, while the market is now nearly twice the size that it was just five years ago. It’s staggering to think that in the UK more than three billion audio streams are generated each week, and during every month in 2023 we saw double-digit percentage growth. It’s this level of growth that prompted the BPI to introduce its new BRIT Billion Award for streams in the UK. The BRIT Billion underlines the extent to which success in streaming is now measured in the hundreds of millions of streams annually, if not more.
“Although overall penetration for premium audio streaming services in the UK is strong, we are seeing new subscribers continuing to enter the market. Part of this is younger listeners who might have shared a streaming subscription with their family but then leave home and take out their own subscription. There is also lower penetration among older consumers, meaning plenty of potential growth within this demographic.
“This past year was also notable for Spotify increasing its subscription prices for the first time since launching in the UK a decade and a half ago, and followed other leading services having raised their prices. These price increases appear to have had little or no negative impact on music fans continuing to pay for a subscription, which is no surprise given that music streaming offers such incredible value for money. The potential growth in subscriber numbers suggests the UK streaming market is far from reaching any kind of peak.”
Physical has proved resilient with the Rolling Stones, in particular, putting in a consistent sales performance in Q4. What's the outlook for vinyl and CD, at a time when production problems have settled down and HMV has decided to re-open their flagship London store?
“The ongoing increase in physical music sales has been nothing short of phenomenal and it is incredible that, in the case of vinyl, not only did unit sales experience a 16th consecutive year of growth in 2023 in the UK but did so at their fastest rate this decade.
“While legendary artists such as the Rolling Stones, whose careers started when the market was only about vinyl, are continuing to sell significant numbers of LPs, as well as CDs, what is so exciting is the number of younger artists whose fans do not just want to stream their music but own it too. The year’s biggest physical music sellers do not just include older artists like The Stones, Blur and Metallica, but the likes of Lana Del Rey, Olivia Rodrigo, Lewis Capaldi and, of course, Taylor Swift.
“Although catalogue remains an important component of the vinyl market, it is new releases that are driving it forward. Seven of the ten biggest-selling vinyl albums last year were released in 2023, while the year’s CD Top 10 was made up entirely of albums from the calendar year, including by artists such as Take That, Ed Sheeran and Kylie Minogue.
“These and other releases are playing their part in a stabilisation of the CD market after a number of years of double-digit percentage declines. CD unit sales dropped by less than 7% last year compared to 19.3% the year before, suggesting annual sales will ultimately level and then move back into the black. Vinyl generally grabs all the headlines, but when you also factor in CD and, for that matter, cassette, the overall physical market was very close in 2023 to having its first rise in overall unit sales since 2004. All this suggests a very positive outlook for vinyl and CD going forward, a point highlighted by the brilliant news of HMV reopening its flagship store in London’s Oxford Street in November and all the fantastic independent record shops we have around the UK.”
It is new releases, not catalogue, that is driving the albums market
Dr Jo Twist
There is no brand new studio album from 2023 in the year-end Top 10 – 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was released last year but it is a re-recording project. Is there a concern that catalogue titles are crowding out new releases now that streaming is the dominant form of consumption?
“The 2023 albums market should be assessed not only by the year-end chart but the weekly official albums chart, which shows overwhelming demand for new music and new releases. More than 150 new albums charted in the Top 10 throughout the year, so an average of about three a week, and included releases by a healthy mix of domestic and international artists, including new talent across multiple genres with debut albums and artists returning with follow-up releases.
“Just a quick glance at the albums that reached No.1 last year highlights that the market remains extremely healthy when it comes to new artists and new studio albums. They included 2023 releases from UK bands including The Reytons, The Lathums, The Lottery Winners, Nothing But Thieves and Royal Blood plus homegrown solo artists ranging from rappers J Hus and Ren to singer-songwriters such as Maisie Peters and Tom Grennan, while a number of superstar UK artists returned to No.1 during the year with their first new studio albums in a number of years, including Blur, Take That and The Rolling Stones. Rather than catalogue titles crowding out new releases, the chart is dominated every week by new studio albums.”
The biggest catalogue titles are also getting stronger compared to the prior year. Is catalogue now driving the albums market? And is there a concern that the singles and albums chart are now growing apart?
“If you look back over the decades since the UK albums chart was launched in the mid-1950s, it has often been the case that the singles and albums markets have behaved differently and made up of different sets of artists. The BPI’s launch year of 1973 is a great example when there were certain album-focused artists like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd who did not release singles, while there were a number of artists flying high in the singles chart who sold relatively few albums. What we are experiencing now has some of these elements, but there are also plenty of examples of artists who are dominating the singles chart but also producing hugely popular albums, whether that’s international artists like Olivia Rodrigo, SZA and Taylor Swift or UK talent including Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Lewis Capaldi.
“It is new releases, not catalogue, that is driving the albums market, as evidenced by the healthy arrival of brand new entries in the Top 10 of the official albums chart pretty much every week. But catalogue has always played a significant role in the albums market. Pre-streaming, the Q4 market was usually dominated by greatest hits albums. Now that same kind of repertoire is more typically consumed via streaming, which is exactly measuring how much catalogue music is being listened to in a way that was impossible to do when the market was ruled by physical product and we had no idea how often someone played their old CDs, LPs or cassettes. It doesn’t mean catalogue titles are getting stronger, only that we are now able to measure their consumption more fully.”
The OCC moved soundtracks out of the main albums chart to help artist albums and support new talent breaking through. Is there now a case for changing the rules in relation to catalogue titles, which are taking up permanent residence in the chart based on habitual listening on DSPs?
“What has kept the official charts healthy and relevant over the years is a regular review of how they are compiled and the rules behind them, which means they are continually evolving to reflect an ever-changing market. However, it should be noted that catalogue has regularly had a significant presence in the official albums chart, including long before streaming ever became a factor. Look back over previous decades and you will find plenty of examples of catalogue albums seemingly taking up permanent residence on the chart, whether that’s Bat Out Of Hell, ABBA Gold or Queen’s Greatest Hits, so that in itself isn’t new. But if you look at the top end of the chart each week, including the Top 10, you will repeatedly find evidence of new talent breaking through and very little in the way of catalogue.”
There is only one UK debut album in the year-end top 100 (Joel Corry’s Another Friday Night at No.98). Why are new UK acts struggling to make an impact – how can the chart better represent new music?
“New talent is the lifeblood of this industry, but streaming has changed the dynamics of what it now requires to break an artist and typically the time needed for this to happen. Compared to when the market was led by physical product and then digital downloads, streaming moves much more slowly, which is highlighted by how long it can now take for a hit song to grow in popularity and then peak. This can be measured in many months, rather than days and weeks as would typically be the case before, so this is having an impact in terms of the frequency and speed at which new artists now make their mark, including those from the UK.
“While it is true that from the perspective of the year-end Top 100 artist albums, 2023 has not been a vintage year for new UK breakthroughs, although by many other measurements we can see plenty of evidence of the rich and diverse array of new domestic talent that is building fanbases and having success. This includes the weekly official singles and albums charts with the albums countdown in 2023 having seen chart-toppers from rising UK talent such as The Lottery Winners, Maisie Peters, Ren and The Reytons, the Mercury Prize where nearly half the 2023 shortlist was made up of debut or sophomore albums, or across social media, including TikTok where rising UK star Mae Stephens had the second-biggest track globally during the year with If We Ever Broke Up. It is a similar slow-burning story for lots of international artists, including Noah Kahan who is now achieving UK success with his third album Stick Season, while SZA’s full UK breakthrough has arguably only happened this past year with her sophomore set SOS.”
Are there other factors that hinder new talent such as media/TV opportunities?
“We would love to see more media and TV opportunities for new talent, not just at annual events such as the BRIT Awards which the BPI organises, but throughout the year as such platforms enable an artist to be introduced instantly to mainstream audiences, some of whom may have not been aware of them before but could then become a fan.
“But it’s true that none of us can afford to be complacent and we all have to think hard about how we can enable new talent to keep coming into the industry and develop successful careers – not least in an increasingly competitive global music economy. That’s why it’s so vital that our UK record companies and labels are valued and supported in the fundamental role they play in signing, nurturing, investing in and developing new talent to realise their creative potential – rather than being frustrated and hindered, which too often seems to be the case.
“That’s also why we need to be relentless in ensuring generative AI is made to serve the creative process and support artists in their work, and why we also need to keep growing our exports potential through schemes like MEGS and our trade missions. And it’s also why the BPI and our members are so committed to supporting the talent ecosystem across the UK and why we are working hard with our partners to open a new specialist creative school in Bradford, inspired by The BRIT School in Croydon and by ELAM also.”
Subscribers can read our report on the strength of catalogue in 2023.
PHOTO: Lousie Haywood-Schiefer