"British music remains poised for further growth": BPI's 2018 end of year report shows 5.7% boost for UK music

According to official figures released by the BPI today (January 3), UK music consumption across all formats (combined) grew for a fourth consecutive year. 

Based on Official Charts Company data, combined UK sales and streams of recorded music have now grown by over a fifth (22%) since 2014. A total of 142.9 million albums or their equivalent were either streamed, purchased on physical format, and/or downloaded over the past 12 months – corresponding to a 5.7% rise on the 2017 135.1m figure, and an estimated retail value of £1.33 billion.

In an official press release, the BPI stated that “with continued purchasing of new and catalogue releases on physical format encourages the view that more people are consuming more music than ever before.” 

While previous years had typically seen one artist play a major role in driving sales (2016 for Adele, 2017 for Ed Sheeran), music consumption was boosted by what the BPI described as the “exceptional performance of blockbuster movie cast recordings in 2018”.

Despite being released in the dying light of 2017, the ubiquitous The Greatest Showman soundtrack was the year’s biggest-selling title, selling over twice the number of copies as its nearest rival and occupying the No.1 spot for almost half the year. Greatest Showman beat Adele’s record for non-consecutive weeks at No.1 in the process and was the first movie soundtrack to top the year-end album charts since Saturday Night Fever in 1978, while also spawning spin-off Sing-a-long and Reimagined versions.

The year’s Top 10 artist albums also featured Abba’s songs in the Cast Recording of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (No.4), and tracks by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the Cast Recording of A Star Is Born (No.7). Queen’s catalogue was also highlighted as benefiting from the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic, with the film’s Original Soundtrack (No.13) appearing in the Top 50 with The Platinum Collection and Greatest Hits.


Music’s global reach is also being extended by blockbuster movie soundtracks

Geoff Taylor, BPI


In positive news on our shores, UK artists accounted for half of the Top 20 best-selling artist albums in 2018, with current Music Week cover star George Ezra’s double-platinum Staying At Tamara’s (No.2) the biggest-selling album released in 2018. Other British artists contributing to the UK success story were Ed Sheeran (÷), Dua Lipa (Dua Lipa), Arctic Monkeys (Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino), Rag‘N’Bone Man (Human), Rod Stewart (Blood Red Roses), Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody – OST), Jess Glynne (Always In Between), Paloma Faith (The Architect), and Take That (Odyssey).

Taking a wider view, 17 of the Top-30 overall were by British acts also including Sam Smith (The Thrill Of It All), Little Mix (LM5), and Anne-Marie  (Speak Your Mind), which was the year’s biggest-selling debut with over 160,000 sales.

In contrast, North American acts featured in the Top 10 best-selling albums, led by Drake (Scorpion), Post Malone (Beerbongs & Bentleys), Michael Bublé (Love), and Eminem (who had three albums in the Top 40 – with his 2018 release Kamikaze, plus Curtain Call – The Hits, and Revival). Ariana Grande (Sweetener), and Abba (Gold – Greatest Hits) also enjoyed Top 20 success. 

Speaking about the results, Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI & BRIT Awards said: “2018 saw another strong performance from the British recorded music business as consumers deepen their engagement with music in its myriad forms. Complemented by collectible physical formats on vinyl, CD and super deluxe box sets, streaming services are enabling more people to discover, enjoy and instantly share music they love. Music’s global reach is also being extended by blockbuster movie soundtracks, such as The Greatest Showman, A Star Is Born, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and Bohemian Rhapsody. 

He continued: “Britain’s innovative labels are playing a key role in nurturing the new talent, such as BRITs 2019 Critics’ Choice recipient, Sam Fender, that continually refreshes fans’ engagement with music. But, as we are already seeing, including with the news that HMV has gone into administration, continuing growth could be put at risk if a hard Brexit further harms consumer confidence or Government fails to ensure that all platforms using music pay fairly for it. If these risks are avoided, British music remains poised for further growth.”

Streaming accounted for nearly two-thirds of UK music consumption (63.6%) of all UK domestic music consumption, and in December the market witnessed a new landmark of 2.0 billion audio streams served in a single week. 

Demand in 2018 was driven by 91 billion audio streams served through Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and other audio streaming services. BPI reported a 33.5% rise on 2017 and a remarkable 2,350% increase since 2012 – and predicted that the landmark of 100 billion streams in a single year will likely be shattered in 2019, especially since the arrival of YouTube Music, which launched in the UK in June 2018.

Drake’s God’s Plan was the most streamed audio track of the year (the rapper also had two other songs in the Top 10: Nice For What and In My Feelings), and there were six tracks in the year’s Top 10 most-streamed that featured British artists, including One Kiss by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa at No.2 (Dua Lipa also enjoyed individual streaming success with IDGAF at No.9). George Ezra claimed two of 2018’s most-streamed tracks – Shotgun (No.3) and Paradise (No.8). These Days – the collaboration by Brits Rudimental, Jess Glynne and Dan Caplen with US act Macklemore – also made the Top 10, while Anne-Marie bubbled just outside of the year’s Top 10 most-streamed tracks with Friends (with Marshmello) and 2002.

The ongoing resilience of physical formats – buoyed by Record Store Day and the first National Album Day – was another key takeaway from the report, with the 4.2 million LPs purchased marking the 11th consecutive year of vinyl growth. Vinyl still occupies a healthy market niche accounting for around 3.0% of music consumed – over one in 10 of all physical album purchases are now on vinyl format.

The report suggested that, while demand for vinyl continues to grow, production is running at close to capacity and that the rate of increase is now consolidating. The 4.2 million LPs purchased represented a rise of just 1.6% over 2017 and up by 2,000% since the format’s low point of 205,000 copies sold in 2007. LP sales remain at their highest level since the start of the 90s, with 12,000 albums released on vinyl in 2018. 

Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino was 2018’s most-purchased album on vinyl and was also the fastest-selling LP in over 25 years since charts records began in 1994, shifting 24,500 copies in just seven days upon its May release. The Greatest Showman Cast Recording (also the best-selling CD), Fleetwood Mac Rumours, Queen Greatest Hits and Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon made up the Top 5. British acts George Ezra, Oasis, David Bowie and Amy Winehouse also featured in the Top 10 vinyl best sellers of 2018.

Continuing a long-term trend, demand for CD slipped by over a fifth. In part, this also reflected the steep year-on-year challenge of competing against the exceptional performance of Ed Sheeran’s ÷ in 2017. Collectible super-deluxe and limited-edition box sets were also highlighted as helping to keep the format relatively buoyant, with reissues by Kate Bush, David Bowie and The Beatles (The White Album celebrated its 50th anniversary) in 2018 enabling physical formats to claim a larger share of retail spend than their unit consumption would suggest.

Though growing from a very low base, there were also signs of a continuing mini revival for the cassette, with acts like The 1975 selling over 7,500 copies for their No.1 album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. Nearly 50,000 cassette albums were purchased – up 125.3% on 2017 and the largest volume sold since 2004.

Iain McNay, chairman Cherry Red Records, and an independent member of BPI Council, said: “2018 has been a fascinating year for the physical format, and labels that specialise in it saw an increase in sales. Its metamorphosis into a collectable artefact has accelerated, and more physical releases, whether on CD or vinyl, now come as special-edition box sets. Collections are often aimed at the ‘super-fan’, whose numbers are increasing rapidly. The inaugural ‘National Album Day’, which the BPI and ERA launched with BBC Music, proved a big success, reminding music lovers of the depth of creativity that goes into a recording an album.”

Vanessa Higgins, CEO Regent Street Records, and an independent member of BPI Council, concluded: “Growth in music consumption and the strength of British artists on the world stage are energising success stories for labels. Whilst it is still challenging for smaller artists to break through the vast amounts of music available at our fingertips, 2018 has proved a galvanising year where the music industry has come together to demand fair payment from the big tech giants, via Article 13. Success in this area would make a big difference to the artists you know and love, and those yet to be discovered, who could be the soundtrack of your future.”     

The blockbuster 92-page edition of Music Week is out now giving you the essential breakdown of 2018.

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