Business News Labels & Publishers

UK record industry exports topped half a billion in 2020, says BPI

By | Published on Wednesday 16 June 2021


International income for the UK record industry topped half a billion pounds for the first time since records began last year, in no small part powered by the streaming boom. However, the international music marketplace is getting more competitive, and the UK government should pursue a number of initiatives to help the British record industry to continue to compete and grow its exports. This is all according to record industry trade group BPI.

In its latest stats brag, the BPI noted this morning that the UK record industry generated £519.7 million in export earnings last year, a 6% increase on 2019 and the highest level of international income since the organisation began tracking such things in 2000. The uplift is primarily fuelled by the streaming boom, with the BPI reporting that around one in ten of all tracks streamed globally are by British artists.

Says the trade group: “The growth in music exports has been powered by British artists and labels successfully harnessing the global reach of streaming, with 300 British artists already achieving more than 100 million streams annually. Indeed, more than 500 UK artists now achieve 50 million streams per year or more, part of a rapidly expanding cohort of British talent for whom streaming is already generating a significant annual income, even before taking into account earnings from physical and digital sales, TV/radio, brand partnerships and, in normal times, live performances”.

But it’s not all good news. Although the UK record industry’s export earnings were up 6% last year, global recorded music revenues at large rose by 8.2%. And while the UK is still the second largest exporter of music after the US, the British industry’s overall share of global music revenue is declining, from 17% in 2015 to 10% last year. The release schedules of the biggest British artists – and in 2020 the inability of artists to tour internationally – will both have impacted that stat to an extent, but the BPI says that there is still work to be done to safeguard the export success of the UK record industry.

Who needs to do that work though? Government, that’s who. Because the BPI has used its latest export stats as a good excuse to repeat a call it made earlier this year on government to help the industry achieve annual exports of a billion pounds by 2030.

Making that happen, says the BPI, requires an extension of the current government-funded Music Export Growth Scheme, which supports independent artists and labels looking to pursue new opportunities in foreign markets. It also calls on government to make it as easy as possible for British artists to tour abroad which, in the short term, mainly means addressing the issues created by Brexit when it comes to touring Europe. A previously suggested new cultural export office could also help artists and their teams navigate visa and permit issues when touring Europe and beyond.

Meanwhile, in terms of recorded music specifically, the BPI calls for a “music production tax credit to encourage new investment into creating new recordings in the UK”, and asks ministers to “raise standards of copyright protection and enforcement in key export markets through trade negotiations”, while also “rejecting any watering down of UK copyright in deals”.

Says BPI boss Geoff Taylor: “The explosive growth of music streaming around the world represents an unprecedented opportunity for British music. With global competition intensifying, now is the time to push hard, to actively promote our artists to a global audience and maximise our share of global growth, with artists such as Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Lewis Capaldi, Stormzy, The 1975 and Mabel, among many others, now leading the way alongside the likes of Ed Sheeran Adele, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys”.

“As the UK builds back from COVID-19 and forges its future as an independent trading nation”, he adds, “music can play a pivotal cultural and economic role. We call on government to seize the moment and make music a champion of our global trading ambitions”.