Media release: British music exports surge to highest levels this century


• Overseas earnings by UK record labels rise 11 per cent to £365 million in 2016

• International revenues climb 72.3 per cent this decade, adding to an overall total of £4.4 billion earned by British artists and labels since the turn of the millennium

• Adele, Coldplay, David Bowie and Rolling Stones led the way driving UK global sales in 2016

• Ed Sheeran helping to set up another stellar international performance by UK acts in 2017

MUSIC body, the BPI, will announce at its AGM in London today that British recorded music exports have risen sharply to their highest levels this century, growing by over two-thirds this decade and contributing nearly £4.4 billion to the UK’s overseas earnings since 2000.

Figures compiled by the BPI based on an annual survey of its record label members reveal that overseas earnings from recorded music rose by 11.1 per cent to £364.6 million in 2016, up by £36.4 million from £328.2 million in 2015.

This is the strongest performance since the BPI began its annual survey in 2000 and represents an increase of £153 million on the £211.6 million recorded at the start of the decade – a rise of 72.3 per cent since 2010.

The growth reflects the enduring global appeal of British music, with UK artists accounting for one in every eight albums purchased around the world in 20162 and the UK continuing to ‘punch above its weight’ as the world’s largest exporter of recorded music after the US.

Announcing the sharp rise in overseas music exports Geoff Taylor, chief executive, BPI and BRIT Awards, said: “With Britain leaving the EU, the UK needs businesses that are true global superstars.

“Music by brilliant British artists – such as Ed Sheeran, Adele, David Bowie, Coldplay and Sam Smith – is streamed and purchased the world over, boosting the UK’s balance of payments. The global digital streaming market represents a huge new opportunity. Government can help to seize that opportunity by making sure our artists can tour freely, post-Brexit, and that third countries robustly protect music rights.”

Last year’s strong figures were fuelled by the phenomenal global demand for Adele’s 25 – released just six weeks earlier in November 2015 – as well as Coldplay’s album A Head Full of Dreams, which came out soon after in December 2015.

Another telling factor was the untimely passing of icon David Bowie in early 2016, which prompted a huge surge in demand for his repertoire of classic recordings. The Rolling Stones’ Blue & Lonesome, which was released in the last quarter of 2016, also performed notably in overseas markets for the UK alongside other titles by British artists.

The BPI figures reflect the long term investment in A&R by UK record labels, as they look to sign and develop outstanding new British music talent and promote it at home and around the world.

UK record labels – ranging from the three so-called ‘majors’ (Universal Music UK, Sony Music UK and Warner Music UK) to hundreds of independent labels also represented by the BPI – typically invest on average around a quarter of their annual revenues into new music each year, comparing favourably with the ‘R&D’ spend of other industries.

UK record company executives have become world-leaders in global digital marketing, supporting the dramatic rise in audio streaming, which in 2016 increased by 604 per cent worldwide.

These new revenue channels combine with overseas earnings from sales of CDs, which remain remarkably resilient, vinyl and downloads to boost exports. The BPI data also includes income generated from PPL public performance royalties, who collected a record £212.1 million in 20165, synchronisation (music for film/TV soundtracks and broadcast advertising), and other licensing income.

The contribution made by UK Government funding to the success of British music around the world should also be acknowledged.

Department for International Trade (DIT) funding of the Music Exports Growth Scheme (MEGS), for example, which the BPI manages, has made £2.3 million in grants available through the GREAT campaign to 150 mainly independent label-signed artists since January 2014.

This investment helps UK acts to build their profile and fanbases in key overseas markets, and, to date, £10 of additional international earnings have been generated by the MEGS artists for every £1 invested.

Government-backed international trade missions organised by the BPI with music partners such as the Association of Independent Music (AIM) and the Music Publishers Association (MPA) also play their part in promoting British music overseas.

Recent missions include visits to growing markets such as China and India, with a trip to South Korea planned for later this month (24 Sep – 1 Oct), while the annual LA Sync mission and UK presence at MIDEM in France are key fixtures in the music industry calendar.

British music exports are strongest in North America and across Europe, although fast-emerging markets in Asia are becoming increasingly significant.

The top five international territories for UK labels in 2016 were USA, Germany, France, Australia and Canada (see Notes for top ten). BPI members are reporting gains in developing markets as varied as China, Turkey and South American territories, while India and South Korea also have the potential to become important overseas markets in future.

With Ed Sheeran’s album Divide ÷ currently enjoying huge global success, topping the charts in 25 countries since its release in March, and major stars such as Little Mix, Rag‘n’Bone Man, Jonas Blue and Stormzy breaking through internationally, there is every possibility that 2016’s strong exports showing will be added to in 2017, not least as a new Sam Smith album is expected later this year among other key artist releases.

The BPI AGM will additionally feature a keynote speech by Nicola Mendelsohn CBE, VP EMEA Facebook, alongside elections to the BPI’s Council12.



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

Notes to editors:

Table showing top ten export markets for British recorded music (2016)

1.   USA

2.   Germany

3.   France

4.   Australia

5.   Canada

6.   Netherlands

7.   Japan

8.   Italy

9.   Sweden

10. Belgium

Source: BPI estimate based on an evaluation of chart performance by UK artists in key overseas markets where data is available.

About the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) Promoting British Music

The BPI is a record labels’ association that promotes British music and champions the UK’s recorded music industry – the world’s third largest. The BPI helps safeguard the rights of its members and of all the artists, performers and record label members of collecting body PPL – who collectively create around 99 per cent of all legitimate sales and streams of music in the UK. The BPI’s membership consists of over 400 independent labels and the UK’s three ‘major’ companies, which together account for up to 85 per cent of legitimate domestic music consumption.

In 2016, UK artists were responsible for one in eight artist albums sold worldwide. The BPI helps to promote British music overseas through numerous trade missions as well as through the Music Exports Growth Scheme.

Since 2014, MEGS has awarded in excess of £2 million in government funding to over 150 mainly independently-signed artists. The BPI provides valuable insights, training and networking with its free masterclasses and presentations and through its Innovation Hub, Insight Sessions and authoritative yearbook and reports. The BPI certifies the iconic Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards Programme, co-owns the Official Charts, owns and organises The BRIT Awards with Mastercard – which, through the BPI’s charitable arm, The BRIT Trust, has raised more than £18m for music education and wellbeing charities, including the BRIT School. The BPI is also home to the Hyundai Mercury Prize.

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