NME Festival blog: UK music streaming sales cross £1 billion mark for first time ever

by Will Lavin
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Music streaming sales in the UK have crossed the £1 billion mark for first time ever.

According to year-end figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association, the UK saw a 7.1% rise in overall music spending in 2019.

Using Official Charts Company data as the basis for their reporting, ERA’s streaming numbers are estimates based on details provided by digital services and label trade income reported to BPI.

ERA’s analysis of the British entertainment market showed a 17% fall in physical sales, which totalled £318 million. Around a third of those sales were vinyl purchases, which grew 6.4% year-on-year to £97 million. Meanwhile, download purchases fell 27% to just under £90 million.

Vinyl sales grew 6.4% year-on-year in 2019. CREDIT: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP

Counteracting the decline was a 23% rise in streaming subscription sales, which crossed the £1 billion mark for the first time ever. That’s four times as much as Brits spent on streaming music just five years ago. It’s also 31 times the level it was in 2010 when streaming sales totalled just £31 million.

With a 7.1% rise on 2018, the total recorded music spending in the UK across all formats was £1.4 billion last year.

Meanwhile, the BPI’s annual report for 2019 found that a record 114 billion tracks were streamed in the UK last year and the equivalent of 154 million albums were purchased across all formats, up 7.5% on 2018.

Where BPI’s figures differ from ERA’s is that they measure music consumption levels, whereas ERA’s focus on retail spending in the UK.

Looking back on the decade, ERA reports a 19.1% rise in music sales when comparing 2019’s figures to 2010. At the start of the decade total music spending in the UK was approximately £1.2 billion.

Physical made up the bulk of all music sales at the start of the decade with £872 million being spent on CD and vinyl purchases. Today’s total of £318 million represents a 63% drop. Download sales have fallen 68% over the same 10-year period.

“[2019 marks] the end of one of the most tumultuous decades in UK entertainment history,” ERA CEO Kim Bayley said.

Crediting the innovation and investment of digital services and retailers with driving the transformation from a physical ownership market to one of digital consumption, she added: “As more and more people sign up to streaming services, it obviously becomes a challenge to maintain the same rate of growth.

“But the fact is UK music fans spent £190 million more on subscription streaming services in 2019 than they did the year before – that’s more than twice the value of the entire vinyl market.”

Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran is the UK’s most-streamed act of 2019. CREDIT: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Spotify has revealed its biggest artists and songs of the last decade, with Drake and Ed Sheeran coming in as the most-streamed acts of the 2010s.

Drake and Sheeran hold the Number 1 and Number 2 spots respectively as the streaming platform’s most-listened-to acts of the last 10 years. They’re followed by Post Malone, Ariana Grande and Eminem in the Top 5.

As for 2019, Sheeran reigns as the UK’s most-streamed act. This year’s biggest songs come from Lewis Capaldi‘s ‘Someone You Loved’ (Number 1) and Billie Eilish‘s ‘Bad Guy’ (Number 2).


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