Music

Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift Help Drive UK Music Sales to a Ninth-Straight Increase

LONDON — Strong growth in streaming, vinyl and even CD sales saw music spending in the United Kingdom increase for a ninth consecutive year in 2023, according to annual figures from labels trade body BPI published Thursday (March 14). 

Total U.K. recorded music sales — comprising digital and physical revenues, public performance rights and sync — climbed 8.1% to 1.43 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) last year. 

That’s the highest nominal amount ever achieved in the U.K in one year, although when the figures are adjusted for inflation, last year’s record revenues are actually 478 million pounds ($610 million) below the 1.9 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) where the music industry should have been in real terms since 2006, the first year when public performance and sync were included in the annual total, reports BPI.

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Driving the growth was an 8.4% year-on-year rise in streaming revenues, which increased to 962 million pounds ($1.2 billion) and accounted for just over 67% of annual trade revenues in 2023 — broadly flat with its share of the U.K. market in the previous 12-month period. Ten years prior, streaming represented just 8.6% of British labels’ income.

Breaking down streaming revenue, paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Apple Music generated 827 million pounds ($1 billion), up 8.1% on 2022, while ad-funded revenue grew by over 12% to 71 million pounds ($90 million) and video streaming trade income rose 6.9% to 64 million pounds ($82 million).

Download sales fell 5.8% to 26 million pounds ($33 million), while total digital revenue was 989 million pounds ($1.2 billion), up 7.9% on the previous year. 

BPI reports that nearly 2,250 artists registered more than 10 million audio streams in the U.K. last year — a rise of 17% over the past two years —  with Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” the most-streamed track, racking up almost 200 million audio and video streams. Behind Cyrus was Dave and Central Cee’s “Sprinter” (160 million streams) and “Escapism” by Raye featuring 070 Shake (142 million streams).

In terms of physical format sales, labels and artists received 243 million pounds ($310 million) in 2023, up almost 13% on 2022, when physical trade revenues dropped by a tenth.

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Fueling physical’s recovery was a double-digit (18.6%) rise in vinyl album revenues, which totaled £142 million ($181 million) on the back of popular new releases by Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones and Lana Del Rey, who had the top three best-selling vinyl titles in the U.K. last year with 1989 (Taylor’s Version), Hackney Diamonds and Did You Know There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, respectively.

More surprisingly, CD revenues also grew in 2023, up 5.4% year-on-year to just under £100 million ($127 million) with Take That’s This Life the year’s biggest-selling CD release. 

Despite the compact disc’s resurgence, which BPI partly attributed to high-profile annual marketing events such as Record Store Day and National Album Day, vinyl moved further ahead as the country’s leading physical format in terms of label income, making up just over 58% of all physical music trade revenue, compared to 55% the previous year.

Public performance revenue climbed 7% year-on-year to 155 million pounds ($198 million), while sync sales dropped 7.6% to just under 40 million pounds ($51 million). 

BPI’s year-end figures differ from those released by the Digital Entertainment and Retail Association (ERA) in January as the two organizations have different counting methods. 

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BPI’s financial figures are based on Official Charts Company (OCC) data and a survey of its record label members, which include the U.K. arms of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, as well as over 500 independent labels. ERA’s year-end results, which also use OCC data, also include retail value, hence the higher numbers.

The U.K. is the world’s third biggest recorded music market behind the U.S. and Japan with sales of just under $1.7 billion in trade value, according to IFPI’s 2023 Global Music Report.

“Led by streaming, this ninth consecutive annual rise in recorded music revenues highlights how a balanced and prosperous market enabled by significant label investment can help even more artists to succeed,” said BPI CEO Jo Twist in a statement.

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