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2015 was a good year for UK music. And not just Adele. Though mainly Adele.

By | Published on Wednesday 6 January 2016


Well, 2015 was a jolly fine year for the UK record industry, apparently, so we’ll have no moaning this year at all, OK? It’s official. 2016 is going to be the first moan-free year in music since Napster.

I mean, even Napster had a good 2015. And not the Napster whose ‘good years’ meant bad years. New Napster. Which, as one of the oldest legit digital services still operational, is hardly new. But I mean not old Napster. Not dead Napster. I mean Undead Napster.

Anyway, no moaning. Not even about YouTube. OK, you can moan about YouTube. But only if – and probably when – Google’s evil lobbyists win the Battle Of Safe Harbours in both the US and Europe.

But anyway, back to the good news. Whether you prefer your year-end stats in terms of revenue or consumption, the record industry’s figures were up for 2015, according to data released today by the Official Charts Company, record industry trade group the BPI and the Entertainment Retailers Association.

According to the BPI’s maths, music consumption was up nearly 4% in 2015 when compared with 2014, and this despite downloads still being down loads, which is a gag that’s still working, so that’s a bit of good news right there. The number of albums downloaded was down from 30 million to 26 million, while singles sales – which are almost exclusively digital – were down 15%, from 156 million to 133 million.

But this is all about the good news, right? So here goes. Streaming continued to boom, up 82% in terms of volume, while CD sales slipped a relatively modest 3.9% and the vinyl revival marched on, with the 2.1 million vinyl albums sold – a 21 year high.

For top line revenues, we can look at ERA’s figures. It reports that the retail value of physical music products was down just 0.5% overall in 2015 at £514.5 million. And while download revenues fell 13.2% from £338.1 million to £293.4 million, streaming income shot up again, up 49.7% from £167.7 million to £251 million. Overall the retail value of recorded music was up 3.5% to nearly £1.1 billion.

It means that digital revenues are now out-performing physical sales quite significantly in the UK, though CDs and vinyl are still a key revenue stream, even if the profit margin on that revenue is considerably less.

Which is to say, while the recorded music market in the UK is now predominantly digital, plastic disks are still an important part of the mix. And don’t you go forgetting it, just because you’re utterly confused about who exactly is buying all these CDs (we’re going to answer that question at The Great Escape in May, by the way).

In terms of best-sellers, well, duh, it was all about Adele wasn’t it? And unlike second and third placed Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, she didn’t cheat by releasing her best-selling album in 2014. Although perhaps that was cheating. Is Sheeran and Smith appearing in the year-end top three all the more impressive given that their albums were oldies for much of 2015? I don’t know. But hey, didn’t they all do well?

Indeed, Adele had the best selling home entertainment product of the year, out-performing top gaming release ‘FIFA 16’ and best-selling DVD ‘Paddington’. In 2014, poor old Eddie Sheeran, with his best-selling LP of the year, languished behind the top DVD and gaming releases in the big end of year list. So well done Adele. But just imagine, if instead of a silly album, XL Recordings had put out a game based on an Adele movie. What a missed opportunity!

Anyway, that’s enough stats for now I think. Oh, except that seven of the top ten best selling albums of 2015 in the UK came from homegrown artists. So British music fans are still a bit racist. Which is good news for the domestic industry. So, remember, no moaning. Unless you’re foreign. You can moan. But only about YouTube.

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