UK music consumption enjoys fifth consecutive year of growth and breaks 100 billion streams barrier

08 Jan 2020

Official figures released by the BPI, based on Official Charts Company data, reveal that 2019 was the fifth consecutive year of growth for the consumption of recorded music in the UK. 

The equivalent of 154 million albums were either streamed or purchased (either downloaded, or as hard copies), up by 7.5% in volume on the total recorded in 2018. This is the highest amount since 2006, when the figure stood at 161.4 million albums.

Streaming surge 

The rise in recorded music consumption is underpinned by streaming, which has enjoyed continued growth, rising by 26% on the year. The number of yearly audio streams is now up by around 3,000% since 2012. 

Streaming now accounts for 74.4% of Album Equivalent Sales (AES), which is the metric used by the industry to measure music streaming and purchasing. 

December was the most musical month, with the highest weekly total of streams ever recorded (2.7 billion). The 2019 total of 114 billion plays on audio streaming services marks the first time that the 100 billion landmark has been surpassed in a single year. 

Artist of the year

The most popular track on streaming services in 2019 was Lewis Capaldi’s ‘Someone You Loved’, which was played over 228 million times on platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. He topped both the Official Singles and Official Album year-end charts, with his debut Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent (released in May). The record was BRIT Certified 2x Platinum, selling over 640,000 albums across all formats and album equivalents, including over 250,000 copies on CD and vinyl combined. Capaldi also hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in October, showing that he is popular across the Atlantic as well. 

Overall, British artists dominated the album charts, occupying six out of the top 10 year-end places, including No. 1 with Lewis Capaldi and No. 2 with Ed Sheeran, and 14 out of the top 20. 

Retro revival 

It’s not just streaming that has done well; the growing demand for music in vinyl and cassette formats in 2019 underlined the continuation of the retro revival, with each registering a 2,000% rise since their respective low points in 2007 and 2012.

Liam Gallagher’s Why Me? Why Not was the most popular release on vinyl, selling over 29,000 copies. 

Vinyl LPs now make up one in every 8 albums purchased, with 4.3 million sold in 2019, an increase of 4.1% on 2018. 

Although cassette sales make up a very small percentage of overall recorded music consumption (just 0.1%), demand has increased for seven consecutive years now, with 80,404 purchases in 2019 the largest volume of sales since 2004. The year-end chart topper was Robbie Williams’ The Christmas Present, which was the fastest-selling cassette album since Now 52 in July 2002. 

While consumers are tending to buy fewer CDs overall, they are spending more on enhanced versions of recordings featuring premium and collectible packaging. 

Booming British industry 

These figures combine to reflect that Brits are showing no sign of stopping streaming or buying music any time soon. 

Music formats have changed significantly since the turn of the millenium, but with these signs of continued growth, it's evidently a great time to choose to launch a career as an artist or as a member of the UK’s flourishing wider music industry. 

Find out more about studying Audio Production and Music Business at SAE Institute.