Apr 16, 2024 4 min read

UK recorded music grows for ninth year running to £1.43 billion

The UK recorded music industry grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2023, bringing in £1.43 billion. Streaming and physical music saw growth, and the independent sector also enjoyed an increased share of album sales and streams. This is all according to a new stats pack from BPI

UK recorded music grows for ninth year running to £1.43 billion

The BPI has published its annual ‘All About The Music’ report on the British record industry's performance in the previous calendar year. The topline stat is that revenues grew by 8.1% in 2023 to £1.43 billion. That’s the ninth consecutive year of growth. 

According to the record industry trade group’s stats pack, more than half of that (58%) came from subscription streaming, sync and public performance combined contributed 13.6%, vinyl sales 9.9%, ad-funded audio and video streams 9.5%, and CDs 6.8%.

Physical media actually saw stronger percentage growth than streaming last year, with CDs, vinyl and other formats all up individually, and collectively up 12.8% on 2022 - vinyl seeing the biggest jump, up 18.6% year-on-year. Streaming overall saw revenues rise by 8.4%, with ad-funded streaming growing fastest at 12.4%. In terms of actual revenues, physical brought in £243.4 million, while streaming generated £962.1 million.

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In terms of what people were listening to, Miley Cyrus came out top with her song ‘Flowers’, which enjoyed ten consecutive weeks at number one in the UK singles chart. This run helped female artists to score a record tally of weeks at the top of the UK top 40 - 31 out of 52 weeks. Women appear in seven slots in the top ten for the full year, including Raye, Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding and SZA.

The top ten singles for the year lean heavily towards new music, with the oldest track on the list Harry Styles’ ‘As It Were’ from 2021. However, the top ten most popular albums of 2023 skews far more to catalogue. Only one release from 2023 makes the list - that being Taylor Swift’s ‘Taylor’s Version’ rework of her 2014 album ‘1989’. Number one is The Weeknd’s 2021 greatest hits compilation ‘The Highlights’, and other best of compilations from Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Eminem and Abba also make the list.

While the most popular singles and albums on streaming services in 2023 are much the same, things do look different for CD and vinyl sales specifically, where there is more new music to be found. Take That’s ‘This Life’ was the most popular album on CD - despite only coming out in November. The rest of the CD top ten features 2023 releases exclusively, with albums by Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones, Lewis Capaldi, Ed Sheeran, Pink, Foo Fighters, Metallica, plus the year’s two ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ compilations.

Vinyl skews slightly more to older releases, but only just. Seven of the top ten releases there came out in 2023 - two of them the ‘Taylor’s Version’ re-records of ‘1989’ and ‘Speak Now’. Swift’s 2022 album ‘Midnights’ also makes the top ten, while two much older releases - Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ - drag down the average age of albums in the top ten.

As ever, there is also information on the different ways music is consumed, and this year the report also includes details on people’s engagement with AI-generated music. 

A fifth of people surveyed by the organisation said that they had heard music created by AI. Younger people were far more likely to answer affirmatively to this question - 45% of sixteen to 24 year olds. However, a collection of responses on people’s feelings about AI music shows that most value human creativity more highly. 

That said, when asked more generally about AI, more than 60% of people said that they didn’t fully understand what it is, had no idea what it is, or just didn’t understand the question. This suggests that, when it comes to it, people may not actually realise that what they are engaging with is computer generated.

The BPI’s key focus in its own top level summary of ‘All About The Music’ this year is on the success of independent music, with indie releases making up 29.2% of ‘album equivalent sales’. This included releases by artists such as Raye - whose ‘Escapism’ album was the tenth most popular indie release of 2023 - and Arctic Monkeys, whose 2013 album ‘AM’ comes out top.

“The UK music industry has always had a healthy and vibrant independent sector made up of an eclectic mix of many hundreds of labels supporting an extraordinary range of British talent”, says BPI CEO Jo Twist. “Their success is underlined by a sixth consecutive year of growth, reflecting both the popularity of their artists on streaming platforms and demand for their releases on vinyl and CD, where they continue to find success with music fans across demographics”.

“The growing success of the UK’s independent sector is just one of many stories in the BPI’s essential ‘All About The Music 2024’”, she goes on. “At a time when the ways we can enjoy music continue to evolve, our yearbook unpicks and analyses this ever-complex ecosystem. It shows an energetic and hugely successful UK recorded music sector, driven by our incredible artists and the record labels that support them”.

This line of back-slapping may also have something to do with the upcoming first meeting of the Creator Remuneration Working group that has been convened by the UK government. 

That will put the spotlight on grievances expressed by artists and songwriters regarding how digital income is shared out across the industry, with many arguing that the current streaming business model is too stacked in the favour of the major record companies. In the context of that conversation, the majors will be understandably keen for everyone to know about the success of independent artists and labels.

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