Media Release: Stellar year for British music, as UK artists achieve record 17.1 per cent global share


THE BPI, the record labels’ association which promotes British music, today publishes its Music Market 2016 yearbook, an 88-page guide to the UK recorded music industry in numbers, with full analysis and detailed commentary on market trends based on Official Charts, IFPI, Kantar Worldpanel and other data.

The book highlights the achievements of British artists in 2015, whose share of domestic album sales reached an 18-year high (at 54.7 per cent) and saw them make up seven of the top ten annual best-sellers in the Official Charts.

British music’s exports to key markets around the world also grew, as UK acts, led by the extraordinary success of Adele’s 25, claimed an impressive 17.1 per cent share of the global albums market – equivalent to around one in every six artist albums sold worldwide, and most likely the highest on record.

However, while music consumption based on Album Equivalent Sales (AES)1 rose by 3.7 per cent at home –  a figure which increases to 12.9 per cent if you include streaming of music videos – total industry revenues including performance rights grew by only 0.6 per cent in 2015, with income from sales and streaming of recorded music, including the share that can be passed on to artists, dipping by 0.9 per cent to £688 million.

The disparity between consumption and revenues is explained by pure ad-supported platforms contributing a meagre four per cent – just £24.4 million – to this total, despite increasing by 88 per cent year-on-year to represent nearly a fifth of total music consumption.

This stands in stark contrast to the £146.1 million that audio streaming services (such as Spotify and Deezer), contributed to artists and labels from a similar number of streams. Audio streams increased by 82 per cent in 2015, leading to a 69 per cent rise in revenues.

The £24.4m generated by pure ad-supported streaming was smaller even than the £25.1 million earned by labels from the sale of vinyl LPs in 2015 – a format which represents less than two per cent of overall UK music consumption.

This illustrates that the much-debated music industry ‘value gap’ or ‘value grab’ – caused by UGC platforms relying on copyright loophole ‘safe harbours’ in EU legislation to pay much lower royalties than competing services – is growing.

Geoff Taylor, BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive, comments: “It is hugely encouraging that demand for British music is so strong at home and abroad thanks to our brilliant artists and the continual innovation and investment of our record labels.

“Yet, the fact that sales revenues dipped in a record year for British music shows clearly that something is fundamentally broken in the music market, so that artists and the labels that invest in them no longer benefit fairly from growing demand. Instead, tech platforms are able to abuse liability protections as royalty havens, dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists.

“The long-term consequences of this will be serious, reducing investment in new music, making it difficult for most artists to earn a living, and undermining the growth of more innovative services like Spotify and Apple Music that pay more fairly for the music they use.

“In 2015, UK fans streamed almost twice as many music videos as the year before; tens of billions more views.

“Yet, artists and labels did not benefit from the increased demand for what they created. This is wrong. Music is precious – it’s not a commodity to be strip-mined for big data. And as we’ve seen time and again in the digital market, where music goes first, the rest of the content sector will follow. This problem requires urgent action by the EU, and our Government needs to take the lead in making sure it is tackled.”


Music Market 2016 provides an in-depth look at a host of indices and metrics, including analysis of industry income; sales by type of music, genre and nationality; best-selling artists and releases; retailer share and consumer demographics; and many other insights. It is available for £90 from the BPI’s shop or email


Gennaro Castaldo +44 (0)20 7803 1326 / +44 (0)7801 194 139

Notes to editors:

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 cumulative total 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.

About the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) promoting British Music

The BPI was formed in 1973 as a representative voice of the UK recorded music business. As a trade association, it promotes recorded music in the UK and worldwide, including through its overseas trade missions and the Music Export Growth Scheme of grants for independent labels. It champions the rights and interests of a broad range of record labels, including through its content protection work. Its membership is made up of over 350 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 third largest music market – and whose artists claimed one in every six albums sold around the world in 2015.

The BPI administers the iconic Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards Programme and co-owns the Official Charts with the retailers’ association ERA. The BPI owns and organises the annual BRIT Awards, and is now also home to the Mercury Prize.

Summary of BPI music market data

ALBUMS and SINGLES FORMATS – CD, vinyl and download

* The fall in the CD market was shallower than in recent years (-3.9 per cent), resulting in the format claiming an increased 65.8 per cent share of the album market.

* Vinyl’s renaissance continued – the eighth consecutive year of growth – with 2.1 million LPs sold representing a 21-year high and boosting vinyl’s share of the albums market to 2.6 per cent (up from 1.5 per cent in 2014).

* The decline in downloads accelerated (-13.5 per cent) as more fans switch to streaming, contributing to an overall 6.2 per cent drop in album sales.

* Sales of digital singles dropped too (-14.7 per cent) as part of this trend.


* 26.6 billion audio streams were measured by the Official Charts across both paid and free tiers of dedicated streaming services, such as Spotify, Deezer and Google Play – up 82 per cent on 2014.

* There were also 26.9 billion video streams (up 88 per cent on 2014) on platforms such as YouTube and Vevo, making the streaming total in 2015 effectively twice as large at 53.7 billion plays.

* 2015 saw the average number of weekly audio streams increase to more than 500 million (up nearly 80 per cent on the equivalent 284 million for 2014) – the first 1 billion audio streams week can be expected this year.

* 173 tracks were streamed over 10m times (73 in 2014)

* Streams accounted for two thirds (66.4 per cent) of the chart-eligible total in the singles market.

* Streams represented over a quarter (27.3 per cent) of the chart-eligible album ‘sales’.


* Adele’s 25 racked up 800,000 sales in its week of release, growing to a UK total of 2.5m copies in just six weeks by the year-end.

* Ed Sheeran’s X sold a fraction under one million sales, and this along with Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour both passed two million lifetime UK sales during the course of the year.

* Elvis Presley’s If I Can Dream sold 880,000 copies (94 per cent CD) as a popular Christmas gift item

* Now 92 was the most popular compilation title of 2015, selling over 800,000 copies in December.

* Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk topped the 2.5 million weekly streams mark in the first seven days of 2015, and by the year-end its chart eligible total (incorporated converted streams + downloads) reached 1.8 million.

* Joining Ronson in the one million club were tracks by Omi, James Bay, Wiz Khalifa and Major Lazer among others.

Top ten albums and singles 2015 – © Official Charts Company 

Albums                                                                                Singles

1.   Adele/ 25 (XL Recordings)                                             1.   Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars/ Uptown Funk (Columbia Label Group)

2.   Ed Sheeran/ X (Atlantic Records UK)                              2.   Omi/ Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix) (Syco Music)

3.   Sam Smith/ In The Lonely Hour (Capitol)                       3.   Hozier/ Take Me To Church (Island)

4.   Elvis Presley/ If I Can Dream (Sony Music CG)                4.   Ellie Goulding/ Love Me Like You Do (Polydor)

5.   Various/ Now 92 (Sony Music CG/Virgin EMI)                 5.   Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth/ See You Again (Atlantic Records UK)

6.   Various/ Now 90 (Sony Music CG/Virgin EMI)                 6.   Adele/ Hello (XL Recordings)

7.   Various/ Now 91 (Sony Music CG/Virgin EMI)                 7.   Major Lazer ft. Mo & DJ Snake/ Lean On (Because Music)

8.   Justin Bieber/ Purpose (Virgin EMI)                                8.   James Bay/ Hold Back The River (Virgin EMI)

9.   Taylor Swift/ 1989 (Virgin EMI)                                       9.   Justin Bieber/ What Do You Mean (Virgin EMI)

10. Jess Glynne/ I Cry When I Laugh (Atlantic Records UK)   10.  Justin Bieber/ Sorry (Virgin EMI)


* Domestic artists took 54.7 per cent album sales in UK (up from 53.5 per cent in 2014) – the highest share since 1997.

* Seven of top ten artist albums were by UK artists.

* Canada’s share of UK sales (3.6 per cent) was up, thanks mainly to Justin Bieber, although Drake and The Weeknd also enjoyed strong years.

* Ireland’s share (2.7 per cent) of UK sales was up on the back of strong performances by Hozier, Enya and The Corrs.


* Pop eclipsed Rock in albums market, with a slightly increased share (35.1 per cent) – driven by Adele, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift.

* Rock still came second (32.6 per cent) – with Coldplay and James Bay among the biggest sellers.

* Share increase for Hip Hop in both the albums and singles markets.


* One in four (25.7 per cent) of the albums sold were compilations – very slightly up on 2014 (25.5 per cent).

* Almost half (48.6 per cent) of compilations were classified as Pop, mainly due to the main Now volumes.


* Five of the top ten biggest artists in the world were British, according to the IFPI – Adele at No.1, Ed Sheeran at No.2, One Direction at No.5, Coldplay at No.6 and Sam Smith at No.8.

* Five of the top ten biggest albums globally were by UK artists – Adele at No.1, Ed Sheeran at No.2, Sam Smith at No.5, One Direction at No.6, Coldplay at No.8.

* UK artists’ share of world album sales (UK market included) rose to 17.1 per cent.

* UK artists’ share of album sales in North America rose – up to 17.6 per cent in the USA and 22.0 per cent in Canada.

* UK artists’ share of album sales In Europe (UK market included) was 25.9 per cent – one in four albums, with a particularly strong result in the Netherlands (33 per cent). With UK sales stripped out the share figure was 16.1 per cent.

Gennaro Castaldo

Director, Communications

BPI | County Hall | Westminster Bridge Road | London | SE1 7JA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1326 | Fax: +44 (20) 7803 1310

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