Image credit: Lee Campbell

The UK music industry has surpassed its peak from the days of the CDs for a new era powered by music streaming.

Whilst music streaming is powering more music consumption around the world than ever before, it’s taken a while to catch up with the revenues made in the peak CD era. Now, the UK music industry has finally caught up.

The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) reached a record high of £2,223 million in the 12 months before February 23rd. This represents an all-time high for the UK industry, surpassing the previous peak over 20 years ago in 2001; £2,221 million.

The digital music industry has played a huge part in this incredible growth. Music streaming services alone accounted for 86% of the UK’s music revenue in 2023. Physical formats are still strong, especially vinyl which has seen a revival in the streaming age. Physical sales totalled £311.2 million in the last 12 months.

ERA chief, Kim Bayley wrote: “This is a day many thought would never come. It is a red letter day for music and the artists and songwriters who soundtrack our lives. There’s still a long way to go, but these numbers show that thanks to the innovation and investment of streaming services, music is on the right track.”

Whilst this is great news, it’s not quite as simple as that. Adjusting for inflation, the UK music retail revenue still has a way to go. 2001’s figures would now be closer to £4,000 million when adjusted for inflation in the last 23 years.

But Bayley reaffirms the positive transformation since the existential crisis posed by music piracy in the early 2000s. She adds: “No one should underestimate the seriousness of the plight the music industry faced in the decade following 2001. It was an existential crisis.”

She continues: “Luckily a new generation of music loving tech entrepreneurs were able to see a way to a new model, based on subscriptions rather than sales. Today draws a line under 2001 and highlights the face that music sales have more than doubled since 2013. That’s great, but after 20 years of inflation, it’s still not enough.”