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British labels’ 10.6% revenue rise is ‘fastest since Britpop’


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British industry body the BPI has published its official label-income figures for 2017, covering recorded-music revenues in the UK. They show a 10.6% rise to £839.4m, with the chosen angle being that this is the fastest year-on-year growth since the heyday of Britpop (and, indeed, of the CD format) in 1995.

The trends within this growth won’t surprise you, as they’re the same as those driving growth in other major music markets like the US. Label revenues from audio-streaming subscriptions in the UK grew by 44.9% to £346.9m in 2017, with audio ad-supported income up 14.8% to £14.9m, and video-streaming income up 16% to £27.1m.

(Which is an interesting point: despite the ongoing war of words around the ‘value gap’, revenues are growing faster for video streams than for free audio streams. Although the counter-argument would be that the revenue per stream is the issue between video and audio. Frustratingly, in its figures for consumption in 2017 released in January, the BPI published a combined number for audio streams – 68.1bn that year across free and paid services – and no number for video streams.)

Also interesting: physical sales income for British labels actually rose in 2017: by 2.4% to £310.4m. Sales of downloads fell by 26.5% to £112.9m, meanwhile. Streaming subscriptions thus now account for 41.3% of British labels’ revenues, with CD’s share (29.4%) easily putting downloads’ (13.5%) in the dust. Indeed, it isn’t fanciful to wonder how soon downloads will fall behind vinyl in the pecking order, given the latter’s 6.6% share of revenues last year in the UK.

CEO Geoff Taylor is optimistic about these trends continuing. “We are likely to see a continuing rise in 2018, with increasing awareness among consumers about the benefits of music streaming, and new developments that are likely to encourage the uptake of subscriptions, such as the launch of YouTube’s premium music service and the growing popularity of smart speakers in the home,” he said. And yes, value-gap spotters, there was a reference to that too. “Government action is needed to remedy the continuing ‘Value Gap’, so that all digital platforms pay fairly for their use of music…”

The UK’s 10.6% growth in label recorded-music revenues compares to 12.6% growth for labels in the US, announced by the RIAA in March – this was the ‘wholesale’ figure reported by that body. Meanwhile, in another major music market, Germany, industry body BVMI recently reported a 0.3% decline in recorded-music revenues last year – but with a similar 42.8% spike in audio-streaming revenues. Based on the US and UK figures, though, we’re in for some good news later this month when the IFPI releases its global stats for 2017.

Stuart Dredge

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