THE value of British recorded music exports grew by 13.7 per cent to a new annual high of £590.8 million in 2021, according to new figures released by the BPI, the trade body for independent and major record labels.
The 2021 total is the highest since the BPI began its annual survey of record label overseas income in 2000.
This new peak was driven by a record number of UK artists last year each achieving 100 million-plus global streams. These included not only superstars such as Adele, Dua Lipa, Dave and Ed Sheeran, but many emerging and breakthrough artists, including Glass Animals, PinkPantheress and Rex Orange County.
Physical and digital download sales, streams and other consumption of British music increased in every region globally, including in Europe (up 17.6 per cent), North America (up 11.0 per cent) and Asia (up 11.1 per cent). Ten of the UK’s 20 biggest music export markets experienced double-digit percentage growth on the previous year, led by China with a 61.2 per cent year-on-year increase.
While there were significant rises for territories where UK music has traditionally thrived, including the US (up 10.4 per cent), Germany (up 31.3 per cent), France (up 20.1 per cent) and Canada (up 18.0 per cent), the increasing importance of Latin America to UK music exports was highlighted by a rise of 12.7 per cent overall. This included a 19.2 per cent year-on-year increase in Mexico.
This positive news comes at a time when recent industry forecasts have predicted worldwide recorded music trade revenues could as much as double by 2030 from their 2021 level of US$25.9 billion. If the UK is able to match global streaming growth, British music exports would rise to £1 billion or more by the end of the decade.
However, this will require a supportive policy environment that ensures the UK maximises its export potential at a time of intensifying global competition.
Despite the welcomed increase in export revenues, the UK’s share of the global market is under pressure from established markets that are consolidating their share of the world market, such as the US and Europe, and from fast-growing domestic music markets that are achieving greater international success such as Latin America and South Korea.
The UK’s double-digit annual growth in exports last year has been led by independent and major record labels driving the success of diverse British music talent across global streaming platforms. Last year, nearly 400 UK artists amassed over 100 million audio streams worldwide, according to BPI analysis of streaming data from Luminate (formerly MRC Data).
This compares with around 300 artists at this level in 2020. More than 600 UK artists achieved at least 50 million audio streams, while over 1,500 surpassed ten million audio streams, generating significant annual income in addition to their earnings from other sources, such as live touring, physical and digital music sales, broadcast and public performance, merchandising and sync.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI, BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize, said: “These record-breaking figures once again highlight the extraordinary popularity of British music internationally. This is not just about our much-loved superstars, but new artists and bands from all over the UK who, with their label’s investment and expertise, are able to successfully navigate the competitive streaming landscape.
“Recent market estimates suggest the global recorded music industry could double in size by 2030, meaning there’s ample opportunity for more artists to achieve international success and for music to deliver for UK PLC. But continued success isn’t guaranteed, as competition increases from international markets, making it harder to cut through and putting pressure on our global market share.
“The Music Exports Growth Scheme provides vital funding to help independent labels and artists expand their businesses overseas, and with sustained support from government, British music will continue to thrive all around the world.”
More than 60 UK artists whose music was streamed at least 20 million times worldwide last year received funding through the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), an export support scheme for independent SME music companies, administered by the BPI and joint funded by industry and government.
Among the MEGS streaming success stories last year were electronic music artists, Bicep and HONNE, singer-songwriters Beabadoobee, Bruno Major and Rina Sawayama, and Mercury Prize and BRITs winning rock band, Wolf Alice, who each accumulated more than 100 million audio streams.
Also supported by MEGS, indie pop artist The Japanese House, singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt, indie pop group, Kero Kero Bonito, and metalcore band, While She Sleeps, all surpassed 50 million audio streams across the year.
Jamie Oborne, founder of independent label, Dirty Hit, said: “The Music Export Growth Scheme has played a critical role in building the international careers of hundreds of UK artists signed to independent labels. At Dirty Hit, we’ve seen evidence of this first hand, including with Beabadoobee and The Japanese House, whose successful MEGS applications have supported promotional, marketing and touring activity in the US.
“For The Japanese House, this included a North American tour for her debut album, Good at Falling, while after we received funding for Beabadoobee last year we continued to build our touring base in the US ahead of her just-released second album.
“UK indies have a long and proud history of developing artists with global appeal, but at a time of increasing competition from other markets, the kind of targeted financial support offered by MEGS is needed more than ever.”
The UK’s record music export numbers were led by the success of global superstars such as Adele, Dave, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, as well as the enduring popularity of music by heritage artists including The Beatles, Queen and Elton John.
The most-streamed track of 2021 in a number of leading music markets was by a British artist or band, including in the US and Canada where Dua Lipa’s Levitating topped each market’s year-end chart. Glass Animals’ Heat Waves was Australia’s No.1 single of the year, while Germany’s 2021 chart was led by Nathan Evans’ Wellerman.
However, many less familiar and new British artists from across the nations and regions of the UK are now achieving tens of millions of global streams each year on the back of a strong international following rather than focusing solely on their domestic streaming numbers. These include dance collective SAULT and rappers, M1llionz and Yxng Bane, who each broke through 50 million global audio streams last year.
Over 200 UK artists had at least 200 million audio streams, including rock band, Asking Alexandria, singer-songwriter Banners, rapper Headie One, pop artist Mimi Webb and BBC Sound of 2022 winner PinkPantheress.
The scale and variety of UK artists achieving hundreds of millions of global streams each year goes far beyond the obvious superstar names. This is highlighted by a group of British artists whose recordings were last year streamed more than 250 million times around the world, but in their career have never scored a UK Top Ten album or Top 40 hit on the UK’s Official Singles Chart. Despite their relative more modest domestic commercial success, some of these artists will be extremely well known in other parts of the world.
They include one-time X Factor UK contestant, Ella Mai, who is a three-time Grammy nominee and whose single, Boo’d Up, was a Billboard Hot 100 Top Five hit and R&B No.1 in the US.
Several other artists who are members of this exclusive club are also far better known on the other side of the Atlantic than back home and include Liverpool-born, Toronto-based Banners who has achieved several Billboard rock hits, Scottish-American singer Sarah McLaughlin aka Bishop Briggs who scored a top three US alternative hit, singer-songwriter Cavetown who has three tracks which are RIAA-certified Gold status in the US and James TW, who reached Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs chart’s Top 30.
These successes highlight that British talent having sizable global streaming success is not just about the most well-known artists to UK domestic audiences.
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