Music consumption in the UK rose by 8.2% in 2020 according to stats from record label trade group BPI and the Official Charts Company, which mash together data from streaming services, download platforms and the sale of physical recordings.
Although both vinyl and cassette sales were up in 2020, the vast majority of music consumption now happens on the streaming services. With 139 billion audio streams being delivered in 2020, streaming accounted for just over 80% of total consumption.
And streaming, of course, is the one music revenue stream not negatively impacted by COVID-19. Consumption did initially dip during the original COVID lockdown, but quickly rebounded and then returned to growth.
And, of course, because of the way premium streaming works, a dip in consumption doesn’t equate to a dip in revenue, providing people continue to subscribe to their platform of choice.
Elsewhere in its stats, BPI says that nearly 200 artists achieved over 100 million streams in the UK in 2020. The top ten streaming artists each scored over half a billion streams, and more than 8000 acts enjoyed more than a million streams across the year.
Commenting on the figures, BPI boss Geoff Taylor said: “A new wave of British talent is capitalising on the immediacy of streaming to achieve fantastic success, measured in the hundreds of millions, even billions of streams”.
“Record labels are investing heavily in new artists to secure the future of British music, boosting the UK’s exports and soft power”, he went on. “The performance of recorded music in 2020 was remarkable and reminds us how important music is to our country, even when our lives are disrupted”.
“But any satisfaction we can take is tempered by the devastating impact of the pandemic on live music”, he then acknowledged. “Recorded music is only one element of artists’ incomes and we renew our calls on government to support our culturally important venues, nightclubs and festivals until they can safely reopen”.
Of course, the shutdown of the live sector and the negative impact of COVID on other revenue streams like public performance and sync has put the spotlight back on how streaming money is shared out between the different stakeholders in the music community.
Many artists and songwriters argue that too big a slice of the digital pie goes to the labels, and that both industry and government should now review how streaming monies are distributed.
Alongside its year-end stats, BPI argues that among the challenges facing artists today is the huge competition for listening time, with unprecedented amounts of new music being uploaded to the streaming platforms each week, all of which also competes with the record industry’s vast catalogue that accounts for an increased portion of listening in the streaming age.
Getting the millions of streams that generate decent income needs good marketing. And, the BPI reckons, that’s why labels still play a key role. A sufficiently key role to justify the cut of the money labels take, it’s then implied.
“Streaming means that there are many more artists active in the market than ever before”, Taylor adds. “This is great news for fans, but means that it is harder than ever for artists to achieve success – so that continued support and investment from record labels in marketing and production is crucial”.
In terms of the artists who dominate the year-end charts in the UK, Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and Stormzy had the most consumed albums, while the biggest tracks of the year came from The Weeknd, Tones & I, Saint Jhn, Lewis Capaldi and Joel Corry.