Artists cash in as online music overtakes radio

THE GROWTH of digital music services such as Spotify and iTunes saw British artists rake in a record amount last year, as online revenues overtook radio for the first time.

Figures from PRS for Music, the UK royalties body, yesterday revealed that it had collected £641.8m for artists in 2012, a 1.7 per cent rise on the previous year.

This was down to a 32.2 per cent rise in online royalty revenues, which PRS for Music put down to the increasing popularity of digital streaming services in particular, as well as licensing fees agreed with new products such as Google’s Play store and Microsoft’s Xbox music service. Income from recorded media, mainly CDs, rose slightly, and made up £102.3m compared to digital music’s £51.7m and radio’s £47m. But income from live gigs fell by 14.2 per cent to £19.3m.

Revenues from TV broadcasting and corporate appearances rose steadily, although exchange rate changes meant a four per cent fall in international revenues – UK artists’ greatest source of income – even as British artists such as Mumford and Sons and Ed Sheeran continued to be a success around the globe. Royalties from sources such as concert DVDs and ringtones continued to slide.

The drop in gig royalties was blamed on the Olympics, which distracted people looking for entertainment in the key summer period and meant there was no Glastonbury festival last year. Live music is expected to come back to growth this year, with the return of big events such as Glastonbury and the Rolling Stones playing in Hyde Park during the summer.

The figures show that despite fears about piracy and falling CD sales, revenues for artists have stayed steady during the digital revolution.

PRS for Music’s chief executive Robert Ashcroft said that legal online services continued to be in demand. “The ever-increasing importance of licensed online services such as iTunes and Spotify underlines the value of music to the internet economy,” Ashcroft said. PRS for Music is the UK’s biggest artist group, representing around 95,000 singers and performers and licensing 10m songs to around 350,000 UK businesses.

City Views | Do you listen to more digital music than radio?


I mostly download my music online and listen to the radio on my way to work. I use YouTube streaming on my iPad. Illegal downloading is not good but it’s probably half the reason that artists are popular.


I get music mostly from iTunes at the moment. I will probably continue to, if prices stay the same and the music stays the same quality. But as long as illegal sites are around, people will still use them.


It seems reasonable for artists to go digital in order to make the most money. I listen to the radio, I’m old school – but having music online is actually a good way for artists to get their stuff out there.

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