Brits now streaming 1bn songs a week says BPI


British industry body the BPI has published its annual report on music consumption in the UK, reporting a 1.5% rise in music consumption in 2016, using its metric of ‘album equivalent sales’. That involves dividing the total individual track sales by 10 and the total audio streams by 1,000 to provide an overall measure of consumption.

The BPI is proud of the figure, not least because 2015 was a 53-week year for chart-calculation purposes: it says a like-for-like comparison of volume would show a 4% rise. Streaming is key, unsurprisingly: Brits streamed 45bn audio tracks in 2016, up 68% year-on-year. The BPI is not including video streams on YouTube in its calculations, note.

The growth during 2016 saw the UK reach the milestone of one billion weekly audio streams in December, with audio streaming now accounting for 36.4% of music consumption in the UK according to the BPI’s methodology.

The figures also reveal the scale of the decline in downloads though: single-track sales were down 26.2% in 2016, while digital album sales were down 29.6%. By contrast, CD album sales fell by 11.7% while vinyl LPs rose by 52.6% to 3.2m units – the highest annual total since 1991, albeit still under 5% of the overall albums market.

How much was all this worth? We’ll have to wait for those figures: the BPI will release its trade-value stats later in 2017, and although it estimated that the UK market’s retail value was around £1bn in 2016, but the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) is likely to publish the official figure this Thursday (5 January). That retail value was £1.06bn in 2015.

But about YouTube… It’s interesting to note that in its equivalent report for 2015 this time last year, the BPI had an estimated figure for video streams – it was 26.9bn that year, just ahead of the 26.8bn audio streams. Why no YouTube stat this time? The BPI says that 2016 data for video music streams is “currently not available”.

We hope that data becomes available soon: with the ‘value gap’ debate continuing to rage, if we’re going to understand how music consumption is evolving in the UK (or indeed any market) that must include YouTube.

Written by: Stuart Dredge