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BPI stats show slowed growth for UK record label revenues in 2020

By | Published on Wednesday 24 March 2021


Not wanting the IFPI to take all the glory with its ‘Global Music Report’, UK record label trade body the BPI has also published its own set of 2020 stats. But for the UK rather than the world, obviously. They are similarly positive though, showing that UK recorded music revenues were up, up, up last year thanks to streaming and despite the pandemic hitting other sources of income.

Total revenues grew by 3.8% in 2020, reaching £1.118 billion. That’s the fifth consecutive year of growth and the highest total since 2006 (when revenues were slightly higher, at £1.166 billion).

Still, while everything was up, it was not up as much as in 2019, when growth was 7.3%. And that is all thanks to the bloody pandemic. Streaming revenues grew 15.4% to £736.5 million, but sync was down 26.4% and public performance income 22.4%, both as a result of the COVID effect. And the shutdown of the UK high street at various points in 2020 likely contributed to the continued decline in physical sales, from which revenues dropped by 2.6% to £210.3 million.

That said, the physical product dip could have been greater were it not for the response by independent record shops to the pandemic, not to mention the continued popularity of vinyl, revenues for which were up by 30.5% to £86.5 million. That compares to the 18.5% drop in CD sales.

Of course, with the sale of CDs still bringing in £115 million, the format remains important for plenty of British record labels. However, vinyl revenues are now on course to overtake CD income in the UK for the first time since the late 1980s.

“The lockdowns inevitably affected financial results in 2020 but, unlike other parts of our industry which were hit very hard, the seamless connectivity of streaming and the enduring love of vinyl meant that recorded music was relatively insulated from its worst effects, and was still able to post growth”, says BPI boss Geoff Taylor. “The ongoing increase in paid subscription streaming fuelled labels’ ability to continue investing in artists”.

“The safe and rapid reopening of live venues is the music community’s critical first priority”, he added, “but the resilience of recorded music demonstrates the important role it plays in people’s lives even in the midst of the COVID pandemic”.

On the continued importance of physical media, he continued: “Vinyl’s exceptional performance despite retail lockdowns confirms its role as a long-term complement to music streaming”.

“2021 is likely to be the year in which revenues from LPs overtake those from CDs for the first time in well over three decades – since 1987. In addition to the immediacy and convenience of streaming, fans want to get closer to the artists they love by owning a tangible creation, and more and more of them are discovering how vinyl, or lovingly created CD boxsets, can enhance their experience of music”.

Other physical formats, by the way, which includes cassettes, also saw revenues rise by 4.4% to £8.2 million. A total of 150,000 cassettes were sold last year in the UK, the most since 2003. Yeah, go figure.