UK consumers spent £1.33bn on recorded music in 2018, an annual increase of over £100m for the second year in a row.
This growth, up 8.9% year-on-year, was driven by an impressive 37.7% rise in subscription streaming revenues, which hit £829.1m last year, according to preliminary data from the Entertainment Retailers’ Association (ERA).
Such positive results, however, masked a torrid year for the traditional album in the UK – during a 12 months which ended with the news that Britain’s biggest specialist entertainment retailer, HMV, had fallen into administration.
According to new BPI data crunched by MBW, total yearly UK album unit sales (across CD, vinyl and download) dropped by a whopping 13.2m (-22.1%) in 2018.
That’s a steeper annual album sales decline than the equivalent drop seen in 2017 (-9.1m), 2016 (-12.8m), 2015 (-5.4m), 2014 (-7.1m) or 2013 (-6.3m).
You’d have to rewind all the way back to 2012 to find a year where overall album unit sales declined to the same degree (-13.2m).
UK album download unit sales were down 26.3% to just 10.2m in 2018, while CD sales fell 23.1% to 32m. And to cap it off, the vinyl revival appears to be losing its shine: after a decade of growth, UK vinyl album sales grew by just 1.6% last year to 4.2m.
On a value basis, physical music sales were down 16.6% to £383.2m last year, according to ERA.
Back to the good news: the rise in the overall UK market – all thanks to streaming – meant that recorded music enjoyed its fourth successive year of growth in 2018.
The UK music sector is now 30% bigger than it was at its 2014 low-point of £1.03bn, but it is still far off its 2001 peak of £2.11bn.
The £829.1m generated by music streaming services in 2018 was more than double the same figure two years prior (£406.6m). (ERA’s data only counts money paid to subscription streaming services; revenues generated by ad-funded platforms are not included in its figures.)
“The continuing strength of physical sales at the top end of the chart means that unless you are a hip-hop artist, the only way to have a really big album is to generate CD sales as well as streams.”
Kim Bayley, ERA
ERA CEO Kim Bayley said, “Streaming services were once again the star performers in the UK music market in 2018, but the continuing strength of physical sales at the top end of the chart means that unless you are a hip-hop artist, the only way to have a really big album is to generate CD sales as well as streams.”
The UK’s biggest-selling album in the year was a soundtrack, The Greatest Showman (pictured) with equivalent sales of 1.62m units. It was accompanied in the Top 10 by two other original movie cast recordings – Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again and A Star Is Born.
The UK saw 91 billion audio streams served through Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and other audio streaming services in 2018, according to the BPI. This represented a 33.5% rise on 2017.
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.
“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.”
Geoff Taylor, BPI
“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.”Music Business Worldwide