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In the UK’s debates about music streaming’s economics, labels have faced strong criticism as well as streaming services.

One of the key arguments marshalled by labels body the BPI in its members’ defence has focused on diversity: a larger and broader range of artists finding success in the streaming era than did in the CD’s heyday.

This morning the body returned to that theme with its latest data drop. It claims that the top 100 streaming artists in 2022 accounted for 19% of the UK’s streaming market, and compares this to the top 100 in 2007 accounting for 45% of artist album sales that year.

“Nearly 90% (87.8%) of artist album sales in 2007 were achieved by just 1,000 artists, compared to last year when the top 1,000 streaming artists claimed only 50.1% of streams, leaving almost half the market to thousands of other artists,” claimed the BPI. More than 2,000 artists generated more than 10m audio streams in the UK in 2022, while more than 200 had more than 100m.

The BPI also reckons that the average British artist gets 80% of their streams outside the UK “which means their UK stream counts should typically be multiplied by five to produce their global stream total”.

Data is always useful, but by its nature it can be interpreted in various ways by people with differing views. Label bodies put figures out in the full knowledge that critics will quickly offer their own opinions which will almost certainly diverge from the “many more artists are flourishing” line offered by the BPI.

That’s healthy debate, and we’ll be looking for those reactions today to report back on tomorrow. From our perspective – as ever, a blend of impartiality, curiosity, optimism and healthy scepticism) the figures are a useful jump-off point for further number-crunching.

For example, we went down a rabbit-hole this morning based on today’s figures, plus the BPI’s announcement earlier this year that the UK saw 159bn audio streams in 2022, plus a ballpark figure from the major labels’ session at the UK’s streaming economics inquiry in January 2021.

(They said that an artist on an average 20%-royalties label deal could expect to earn around £1,000 per million streams, after the label’s cut.)

Based on the top 1,000 artists accounting for 50.1% of the UK’s 159bn streams last year, IF all of the top 1,000 streaming artists in the UK were on such deals (spoiler: they’re not) that works out as an average of 79.7m streams apiece, and thus £79.7k of UK streaming royalties per artist, after the label’s cut but before any splits if the artist is a group.

Using the BPI’s ‘multiply by five’ logic, this could mean an average of £398.5k of global streaming royalties for the British artists who are in that top 1,000.

Or could it? There are too many caveats in the calculations, and we’re not sure how useful an average across 1,000 artists, without more data about what the range is between the top superstars and the low 900s is anyway.

But here’s the point. Any data – including that published by one side in a debate to support their policy stance – can be a good spark for this kind of analysis. The BPI’s new numbers, and the response to them from critics, will deepen our understanding of the streaming economy and its impact on artists.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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