Media Release: Streaming surges 25 billion landmark as UK music consumption rises four per cent


FIGURES released today by music body, the BPI, based on Official Charts Company data, show that UK music consumption rose by around four per cent in 20151 – corresponding to a retail value of £1.1 billion.

The market was buoyed by the continuing surge in audio streaming, which grew by 82 per cent in volume, and was helped also by resilient demand for music on CD, which dropped 3.9 per cent on the previous year – less than many commentators would have expected, while 2.1 million vinyl LP unit sales represent a 21-year high.

Using the standard music industry Album Equivalent Sales (AES) metric to calculate overall music consumption, a total of 121.6 million albums were either purchased on physical format, digitally downloaded or consumed via streaming by UK music fans in 2015 – up on 117.2 million in 2014.

Commenting on another strong year for British music, Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI and BRIT Awards, said: “The soaring popularity of music streaming and the burgeoning vinyl revival mean that UK music consumption rose again in 2015.

“Services such as Spotify and Apple Music are going mainstream as more people discover how wonderful it is to have all the music in the world to listen to, whenever and wherever you want.

“Millions of fans also continue to build treasured collections of favourite albums on vinyl, CD or downloads.

“Yet again, it’s UK artists who are driving this growth and inspiring the fans – at home and across the planet – with their award-winning song-writing and performances, whether it’s global icons such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and One Direction, or recent British breakthroughs and newcomers like Jess Glynne, Little Mix and James Bay.”

Adele leads the way as British artists triumph again (see Official Charts in Notes for editors).

Much of this success was again delivered by British artists, who dominated the Official Charts with seven of the top ten best-selling artist albums recorded by a homegrown act in 2015 and 15 of the top 20 – including BRITs 2015 Critics Choice recipient, James Bay, whose debut, Chaos and the Calm, sold over half a million copies (No.8 overall).

Various records were broken by Adele’s 25.

In just six weeks, 25 sold 2.5 million copies in the UK – the first multi-million album release in a calendar year since Adele herself achieved the feat with 21 in 2011.

Adele’s No.1 chart success is the 11th year in a row the UK’s best-selling artist album has come from a British artist. Adele reasserted her dominance of the US market too, registering more than seven million sales of 25 since its release in November, making it 2015’s biggest and fastest global best-seller.

A stellar 12 months was also enjoyed by Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, who continue to build on their global superstar status.

Both X (No.2 in Official Artist Album chart) and In the Lonely Hour (No.3) passed two million lifetime sales in the UK in 2015 – a feat replicated in the United States.

Ed Sheeran now joins Sam Smith as well as Adele and Taylor Swift as the only artists to achieve multi-platinum status in the US since 2014, while his album X has now sold over ten million copies in total worldwide. Sheeran was also the most streamed artist of 2015 in the UK.

Jess Glynne‘s success added to the stream of exciting new female talent, and her debut I Cry When I Laugh (No.7) is on its way to being certified double platinum.

In ninth spot, Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams delivered another annual top ten, placing for the group, while making up the artist top ten George Ezra’s 2014 debut Wanted on Voyage joined the elite club of million-selling albums.

Also flying the flag for British artists in 2015, Little Mix, Olly Murs, One Direction and Mumford & Sons performed strongly just outside the top ten, while Rod Stewart and Jeff Lynne’s ELO additionally featured in the top 20, to underline the enduring appeal of heritage artists and the depth of British music performance.

The best-selling albums by overseas artists in 2015 included If I Can Dream, featuring Elvis Presley’s classic hits reimagined by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

This ‘best of’ album proved a hugely popular Christmas gift item, particularly on CD (94 per cent), selling over 880,000 copies (at No.4), while Justin Bieber’s fourth studio release, Purpose, also claimed a top five finish (No.5), spawning three No.1 singles in the process.

In sixth spot, Taylor Swift’s 1989 has now been purchased nearly a million times in the UK since its release in October 2014. Irish artist, Hozier, enjoyed a striking debut at No.14, with demand for his self-titled album driven by the acclaimed track, Take Me To Church.

The best-selling single of the year by far was the 2014 release, Uptown Funk, by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, which was downloaded and streamed extensively across the year, ahead of Cheerleader by Omi and Take Me To Church by Hozier.

Surge in audio streaming sees platform overtake digital albums, as nearly 27 billion songs are streamed in 2015

The number of audio streams served in 2015 rose by 82 per cent with 26.8 billion songs streamed from digital services such as Spotify, Deezer and Google Play as well as Apple Music (2014 – 14.8 billion).

This dramatic growth means the platform accounted for more than a fifth (22 per cent) of all the music consumed in the UK in 2015 (12.6 per cent in 2014). Such a level of consumption works out at around 1,000 streams for each of the UK’s 27 million households.

The average number of weekly streams across 2015 increased to 506 million – up 78 per cent on the equivalent 284 million average for 2014.

The most streamed track of the year was Omi’s Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix), which had nearly 72 million plays, while Major Lazer’s Lean On, which featured Mo and DJ Snake, and Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, which came out last November 2014 and featured Bruno Mars (which was the No.1 single also), were placed at second and third respectively, not far behind on around 65 million plays.

The song that was streamed most in a single week, however, was Hello by Adele, which was played 7.3 million times in the UK in the week of its release in early November (week 44).

At present, plays of music through music videos sites such as YouTube are not included in the Official Charts data, but if last year’s 26.9 billion video streams were to be added to the 26.8 billion audio streams served by streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer in 2015, the combined figure would total 53.7 billion plays.

Having peaked in 2013, demand for digital albums is now declining as consumers switch to streaming.

In 2015 just under 26 million albums were downloaded – down from 30 million in 2014. The number of singles purchased (almost entirely via download) was similarly down 15 per cent on the year – from 156 million in 2014 to 133 million in 2015.

Physical formats – demand for vinyl at 21-year high, while rate of CD decline continues to soften

The fairy tale revival in demand for vinyl continued apace in 2015, with interest encouraged by such events as Record Store Dayand a new generation of rock bands and fans who regard vinyl as collectable art that is a ‘badge of honour’.

With vinyl growth up 64 per cent on the year (higher than expected boosted by strong Christmas gifting), LP sales increased from 1.3 million units in 2014 to 2.1 million copies sold over the past 12 months.

Though still accounting for just under two per cent of music consumption in the UK, the format has now shown eight consecutive years of growth since facing near extinction in 2007, when only 205,000 LPs were bought.

Demand for vinyl comes from the baby boomers who grew up with the format but also from a new generation of engaged younger fans drawn to its emotional appeal at the heart of Rock music’s heritage.

The most popular releases are typically from iconic acts such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Oasis, and more recent groups including Arctic Monkeys and Royal Blood.

In 2015, however, the best-selling vinyl title was Adele’s 25, while interest in the Amy Winehouse Amy documentary helped Back to Black into the top three, just ahead of the Stone Roses’ self-titled album from 1989.

The success of Adele and Amy on vinyl suggests that the format, which is often presented in premium-quality packaging featuring added-value content, is increasingly lending itself to the gifting market – especially in the run-up to Christmas.

CD album sales in 2015 stood at 53.6 million units, down 3.9 per cent on the year and still accounting for 66 per cent of all albums purchased in the UK.

This softening in its rate of decline, compared to a 20 per cent drop in 2012 (and a 7.9 per cent decrease in 2014), underlines the format’s resilience and suggests that it may yet have a viable future for some years to come as part of a multi-channel consumer landscape alongside vinyl, streaming and downloads.

Now 92 best-seller as Now series dominates compilations top ten

Compilation albums remain popular with fans and commercially important to the industry, and the year’s best-seller – Now That’s What I Call Music 92 was the fifth most-purchased album of the year overall, with over 800,000 copies sold.

This came in ahead of Now 90 and Now 91 at No.2 and No.3 respectively in the compilations chart.

The evergreen Now range has, over time, become synonymous with the success of the Greatest Hits market, and its domination of last year’s Official Compilations Chart top-10, including through Now Summer Party, Now Classic Rock and Now Christmas was broken only by the soundtrack to Fifty Shades of Grey, which was the category’s fifth best seller, and Ministry of Sound’s The Annual 2016 at No.7.

The soundtrack to Frozen remains a perennial favourite also, and the title has now achieved well over one million cumulative sales during the past two years.

Please note: The BPI’s reporting year is based on Official Charts Company data, which in 2015 reflects a 53-week chart year. See Notes for editors.



BPI gennaro.castaldo@bpi.co.uk / 07801 194 139 / 020 7803 1326

Official Charts Lauren Kreisler at lauren@theofficialcharts.com / 07789 886 263

Notes for editors:

1. The reporting year is based on the Official Charts sales data weeks 1-53 (this year ending 1 January 2016). It should be noted that, as occurs every few years, the figures for 2015 reflect a 53-week Chart year, and, as such, will contribute to slightly enhanced year-on-year comparisons.

2. Retail value reflects retail prices paid and subscriptions to streaming services but excludes estimated revenues from ad-supported audio streaming.

3. Album Equivalent Sales (AES) is a standard music industry metric that enables sales and streaming formats to be measured on a comparable basis so that total music consumption can effectively be gauged and reported.

The analysis for this report/release converts all streams and sales data to ‘Album Equivalent Sales'(AES). Physical album and digital album sales data have been included as per the Official Charts Company database, but the cumulativetotal for individual track sales has been divided by ten (to provide a ‘Track Equivalent Album'(TEA) figure) while the audio streaming total has been divided by 1,000 (as 100 streams=one track sale and ten track sales=one album) to provide a Stream Equivalent Albums (SEA) figure.

4. Official Charts best-selling albums of the past 11 years: 2005 – 2015 – Adele ‘25’ (2015), Ed Sheeran ‘X’ (2014), One Direction ‘Midnight Memories’ (2013), Emeli Sandé ‘Our Version Of Events’ (2012), Adele ‘21’ (2011), Take That ‘Progress’ (2010), Susan Boyle ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ (2009), Duffy ‘Rockferry’ (2008), Amy Winehouse ‘Back To Black’ (2007), Snow Patrol ‘Eyes Open’ (2006), and James Blunt ‘Back To Bedlam’ (2005).

5. Office National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/families-and-households/2015/stb-families-and-households.html

The BPI was formed in 1973 and is a representative voice of the UK recorded music business. It promotes recorded music in the UK and worldwide and champions the rights of the music community. Its membership is made up of hundreds of independent music labels and the UK’s three major record companies, which collectively account for around 85 per cent of the recorded music consumed in the UK – the world’s fourth largest market.

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