May 13, 2024 5 min read

UK Music’s Director of Research Andy Edwards on the value of music creators’ economic data

UK Music has launched its annual This Is Music Creators’ Survey. The trade body’s Director of Research Andy Edwards explains how responses are used, both in contributing to its calculation of the music industry’s overall contribution to the UK economy and identifying key issues facing creators

UK Music’s Director of Research Andy Edwards on the value of music creators’ economic data

UK Music first decided to start collecting economic data on the music industry in 2012. Governments produce data on the economy and various industry sectors to help estimate the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. Such data is highly influential, both at a national level and globally. The problem was the creative industries, and the music industry specifically, are badly served by the existing industry and occupational codes that are used to calculate the GDP. This meant that the music industry’s contribution to the economy was undervalued.

To counter this, UK Music, in consultation with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, developed a new and more accurate methodology for calculating the value of the music industry. 

I was involved with the initial development of the report back in 2012 as a member of the project’s steering group. Back then I was working as an artist manager and was keen to ensure that music creators’ economic contribution was properly represented. 

The methodology we developed identified, in broad terms, four commercial assets, which are: 

  1. a musical composition and/or lyrics, 
  2. a master recording of a musical composition, 
  3. live musical performance, 
  4. the artist themselves as a brand, reputation or image. 

These assets provide the framework that helps us define the music industry, and the businesses and individuals that help generate economic value from these assets. Music creators are central to this process. They are supported by record labels, music publishers, managers, agents, promoters, merchandise companies, collection societies, and so on. 

The figures that are produced annually are published in a report called This Is Music. They are nationally and internationally recognised and often quoted by politicians and the media. It’s also a valuable academic resource.

As UK Music’s Director of Research, it’s my role to work with industry to collate the data and information needed to quantify the annual Gross Value Added (GVA), exports, and employment figures for the music industry. In producing this report, I rely on numerous sources to pull the numbers together and make sense of the factors driving the music economy. One of the biggest challenges is quantifying the work of music creators, because it is such a vast, diverse group of individuals, including artists, musicians, vocalists, DJs, songwriters, composers, producers, and engineers. Individual creators can earn very different amounts and generate their incomes in many ways.

For example, a session musician earns primarily from playing live, session fees, and sometimes tuition fees. Composers earn from commissions, with some royalty income on top of that. Sometimes artists write their own material and will earn collection society income and publishing royalties. Artists may benefit from selling physical formats such as vinyl at live shows or online via platforms such as Bandcamp. An established artist may not release much new music but will earn a significant proportion of their income from playing live. Playing live is also a great opportunity to sell merchandise for artists at all levels, whether they are playing in grassroots venues or stadiums. Artists with a particularly high profile can earn income from brand endorsements, clothing lines, and other commercial opportunities. These are just a few examples, and there are multiple variations. 

Every year UK Music runs the This Is Music Creators’ Survey as a critical means of gathering this information. We work with UK Music member organisations (AIM, BPI, FAC, Ivors Academy, MMF, MPA, MPG, MU, PPL and PRS for Music) to promote the survey. 

This data is then used to help model creators’ income and this contributes to a total GVA figure for the music industry. 

The survey also asks what proportion of revenues arises from overseas and this proportion is applied to our measure of total revenues of musicians to help generate the total exports figure for the music industry. Finally, the survey helps contribute to the total employment figures for the music industry. 

Music creators are, collectively, the biggest contributors to GVA, exports, and employment. This is why the This Is Music Creators’ Survey is incredibly important. Every year thousands of musicians complete the survey and help gather the data we need. Each person who contributes plays an important part in getting to those overall headline figures, and the more responses we receive, the more accurate a picture we can build. 

Last year, we included questions in the survey about the impact of leaving the EU on creators’ income. The survey found that almost one in three music creators (30%) who responded to the survey said their earnings had been affected since the UK’s official exit from the EU on January 31 2020. Of those whose income had been impacted by Brexit, an overwhelming 82% said their earnings had decreased. 

Musicians, DJs, and vocalists were among the worst hit. Only one in five (18%) of music creators said their incomes had improved post-Brexit. Having this information meant that UK Music was able to go to the government with these statistics to impress on them how restrictions on visas, work permits, truck hire, and merchandise sales, along with excessive red tape, have curtailed what was once an important income stream for many. We hope to develop the analysis further this year, not just for those who work internationally, but also identifying challenges in the UK. 

Because the survey is quite detailed, we recommend that respondents look through the questions and pull together the figures needed to complete the survey – PRS for Music and PPL income, total live income, and income from recording, publishing, merchandise, session fees, and so on. The numbers do not have to be exact - a close approximation will suffice. We also ask some open-ended questions, which will help me to gain insight into the situations behind the numbers and see trends in the responses. 

Please be assured that we appreciate how sensitive this information is, and we adhere to strict confidentiality and GDPR practices. All the information about how your data is handled can be found at the top of the survey, but if you have any concerns, please let us know.

We very much appreciate the time and effort you all put into completing the survey every year. We would not be able to do this important work without you.

👉 Please take part in the This Is Music Creators’ Survey here.

Andy Edwards, UK Music's Director of Research & Analysis

Andy is an experienced music business executive with a career that encompasses record labels, music tech start-ups, rights acquisition and artist management. He has served on the boards of the Music Managers Forum (MMF) and UK Music. Andy founded and chaired the UK Music Futures Group before joining UK Music as Director of Research & Analysis.

Andy’s varied career includes marketing, digital strategy, business affairs, and commercial dealmaking roles in addition to strategy and research. He has worked with artists as varied as Genesis, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Dido, James Morrison, Cher Lloyd and Andreya Triana. Andy continues to act as a consultant and advisor to artists, producers and songwriters alongside his UK Music work.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to CMU.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.
Privacy Policy