UK Streaming Soars In Wake of Covid Pandemic

Image Credit: Szabo Viktor

Streaming consumption grew again in 2020 with lockdowns And tour cancellations fuelling the increase.

As the world turned took a bleak turn we all headed towards our devices for various entertainments and distractions, one such distraction was of course music. During the lockdown streaming increased by 20% and 80% of music consumption was via streaming platforms. During 2020 people listened to 139bn audio streams, a massive increase on 2019’s 114bn. 2020 also saw an increase in vinyl and cassette sales whereas CD sales fell by almost a third year on year. 

UK artists led by Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa accounted for eight of the top 10 albums. Nearly 200 artists were streamed more than 100m times, with the BPI hailing a new wave of diverse talent fanning the flames of music industry growth, including acts such as AJ Tracey, KSI, and J Hus

Capaldi’s ‘Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent’ remained the most streamed album for a second successive year in the UK. The Scottish artist also recorded two of the top 10 selling singles, a chart topped by The Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’

Consumption was up for a sixth consecutive year in 2020 according to the BPI, with the equivalent of 155m albums sold, up 8.2% on 2019. The figures were recalibrated to include video streaming alongside other paid audio streams. The increase is linked to the live sector going into an indefinite hiatus due to the pandemic and consequent lockdowns. 

The BPI also commented saying that streaming was fuelled by labels’ increased investment in A&R (Artist & Repertoire), the talent scouting and development part of the music industry. A&R spending increased to a staggering £250m in 2019, which brought more diverse talent from rap, hip-hop, dance and other genres. 

Speaking on the new wave of talent BPI chief executive, Geoff Taylor, said: “A new wave of British talent is capitalising on the immediacy of streaming to achieve fantastic success, measured in the hundreds of millions, even billions of streams. Record labels are investing heavily in new artists to secure the future of British music, boosting the UK’s exports and soft power.”

He continues:  “The performance of recorded music in 2020 was remarkable, and reminds us how important music is to our country, even when our lives are disrupted.”

The top 10 streaming artists in 2020 each achieved an impressive half a billion streams in the UK alone, while 8,000 different acts now total more than 1m streams annually. 

In addition to an increase in streaming physical sales also had their fair share of sales, particularly vinyl, which saw an increase for the 13th consecutive year, by 11.5% to 4.8m sales. An unlikely physical format return is of course the cassette, selling 157,000 copies. It’s still a niche format but the increase is worthy a mention. 

Hill adds that “As we celebrate this streaming boom, it’s important we also remember the ongoing fan demand for something tangible and recognise that streaming and physical music coexist quite happily.”

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