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Subscription streaming now more than half UK labels’ income


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New figures from industry body the BPI show that streaming subscriptions accounted for 54% of British labels’ income in 2018, as the revenue from these subscriptions grew by 34.9% year-on-year to £467.6m (around $615m). That contributed to a 32.8% rise in all music-streaming revenues for labels to £516.4m, with ad-funded audio-streams generating £19.1m (up 25.8%) and video streams generating £29.7m (up just 9.9%).

The big picture: a 3.1% growth in label revenues last year to £865.5m, with the streaming rises outweighing the continued sharp declines in CD sales (down 28.4% in trade-revenue terms) and downloads (down 27.9%). With the ‘value gap’ debate front-of-mind, the BPI took care to point out that the £57.1m of vinyl sales in 2018 (up 3.7%) was also nearly double the amount generated by video streams. The BPI estimates that there were more than 30bn plays of music videos in the UK last year, based on a survey of its members extrapolated for the entire market.

Trends, though? That 3.1% growth in label revenues is something of a red flag, given that the comparable growth in 2017 was 10.6%. While the BPI is understandably keen to talk about growth over a longer period of time – label income has risen by 21.8% since 2015, with three consecutive years of growth – the year-on-year slowdown in that growth is something to watch. The BPI did mention the challenge of matching “the phenomenal global success in 2017 of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Divide’ album” from 2017 in the context of physical formats.

The full figures will be published in the BPI’s All About The Music report next week, by which time the British music industry will hopefully have some clarity on what’s happening with the UK’s exit from the European Union (although given the chaos of recent days in British politics, perhaps not) as well as with the new European copyright directive and its Article 13, which will be voted on by European parliamentarians next week. Although quite how that law would apply to or be implemented by a post-Brexit UK is, frankly, up in the air right now.

Stuart Dredge

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