Britain’s music industry is a lynchpin in our culture and national identity, but it is also a huge driver of our economy, a source of digital innovation, and a major asset for our global competitiveness. As the PM has announced the removal of all limits on gatherings indoors and outdoors, we need to play an active role in reviving the live music sector, as well as amping up our worldwide success in streaming.
The Euros – despite the bitterly disappointing result – saw the country united in singing “it’s coming home”. But there are more reasons than the Euros to be singing Three Lions. 10 per cent of music consumed around the world is produced by British artists, so it’s no exaggeration to say we punch well above our weight. The industry is highly competitive, with artists reaching new audiences everyday and independent labels growing their market share across every major metric, accounting for over a quarter of Album Equivalent Sales in 2020.
This success has been hard-won. It is the result of huge investment and innovation, after piracy saw global recorded music revenues drop by some 40 per cent between 2002 and 2015.
With substantial investment from record labels, the industry has undergone a digital revolution. In turn, streaming has provided an invaluable income stream for artists, publishers and songwriters that keeps on growing, with royalties doubling over the past decade. Today, streaming makes up 80 per cent of music consumption. For around the cost of one CD per month, every musical taste and genre from anywhere in the world can be accessed by anyone online.
Naturally, more investment is always needed to keep pace with global competition. According to the BPI, just 1 in 10 signed artists are expected to succeed commercially. In turn, Spotify says the number of creators on the platform has grown from three million in 2018 to an astonishing 8 million by the end of last year. With that in mind, it’s remarkable that the UK is one of just a handful of countries that is a net exporter of music talent. And if UK music exports continue at their current rate of growth, we’ll see them double 2019’s figures and surpass the £1 billion mark by 2030.
This continued growth will benefit not only artists and fans, but also attract more investment in UK talent, support the recovery, and grow the UK’s cultural influence around the world as we continue to strike new trade deals.
However, we must keep ahead of the curve: the increasing shift to digital-first economies is attracting more customers and more competitors to the playing field as emerging markets embrace the streaming revolution. Last year, Latin America and Asia were the fastest growing music regions: Asia grew by 9.5 per cent and Latin America grew by 15.9 per cent, compared to the UK’s growth of 2.2 per cent.
This is partly down to scale, because these markets have such large domestic audiences, but also because people around the world increasingly want to listen to their local repertoire of artists. This is a testament to streamings’ ability to democratise music. But, as a result, the UK’s share in global music revenues has fallen from 17 per cent in 2015 to 10 per cent today. Eight nationalities from five continents were represented in the top 20 global digital singles chart last year, up from five nationalities in 2019. We should be proud – but not complacent – that our very own Dua Lipa was the only British artist to make this list of the world’s top music talent.
Tomorrow, the DCMS Select Committee will report its final recommendations on the economics of music streaming. But for the reasons above, we must stay focussed on the challenge of maintaining our leading position on the global stage. Ministers should only put in place policies which support the growth and continued success of the UK’s music industry and be wary of any interventions that will hold it back or create unintended consequences for our artists, labels and economy.
It’s been devastating to see the impact that the last 18 months has had on the creative industries, especially those artists and businesses that have suffered immense financial hardship as Covid restrictions and lockdowns forced the shutdown of live events.
We are at a pivotal moment for our economy and music stands to help us forge a stronger future, playing a vitally important cultural and economic role. There is no doubt that the Government could take more steps to help revive live music, starting by brokering hassle-free international touring such as that used by Canada. But when it comes to streaming, any action taken by the Government must be carefully measured and considered, and make sure one of Britain’s most promising industries continues to hit the high note.