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Streaming breaks the 100 billion barrier, fuelled by exciting new talent


More than 100bn tracks were played on audio streaming services for the first time in a single year in 2019, but fans still also love the enduring appeal of analogue and physical formats

Lewis Capaldi tops the year-end albums & singles charts and is joined by Billie Eilish, Tom Walker, Lizzo, Dave, Mabel, Freya Ridings, Sam Fender, Tones & I, AJ Tracey & others in enjoying brilliant breakout years

  • Music consumption up for fifth year in a row – the equivalent of 154m albums were consumed across streaming and purchasing in 2019, up 7.5% on 2018 and reaching its highest level since 2006
  • 114bn music streams in 2019 – a 3,000% increase on 2012 (the first year annual figures are available)
  • Growth continues for vinyl – 4.3m LPs sold, the biggest total this century and sales up for a 12th year
  • The unlikely renaissance of cassettes continues – over 80,000 sold, the largest amount in 15 years
  • BPI CEO Geoff Taylor welcomes growth, but calls for Government support overseas and in schools 


Official figures released by record labels' association the BPI, based on Official Charts Company data1, show that 2019 marked a fifth consecutive year of growth in the consumption of recorded music in the UK.  

The equivalent of 154 million albums2 were either streamed, purchased on physical formats or downloaded3 – up by 7.5 per cent in volume4 on the total recorded in 2018. This is the highest amount since 2006, when the figure stood at 161.4m albums. Please note that volume growth should not be equated with growth in recorded music revenues, which tends to be less pronounced. The BPI will announce 2019 label revenues in the early part of 2020.

The continued growth in streaming, which rose by 26 per cent on the year, underpinned this rise in consumption. Streaming now accounts for three quarters (74.4%) of Album Equivalent Sales (AES), the metric used by the industry to collectively measure music streaming and purchasing. December saw the highest weekly total of streams – 2.7bn – ever recorded, and the 2019 total of 114 billion plays on audio streaming services marks the first time the 100 billion landmark has been surpassed in a single year.

Rise fuelled by exciting new talent

The most-streamed track of 2019 – Lewis Capaldi's Someone You Loved – was played over 228m times on audio streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. Other artists making the year-end top 10 included Lil Nas XEd SheeranStormzy and Billie Eilish, while singer-songwriter Tones and I enjoyed an 11-week run at the top of the Official Singles Chart with her global smash Dance Monkey – the longest run by a female singer in Official Charts history. The most popular 17 tracks were all played over 100m times each 

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards said: 

"British music proved once again in 2019 that it has a bright future.  Strong demand for streaming music and vinyl, fuelled by the investment and innovation of UK labels in discovering and promoting new talent, boosted music consumption to levels not seen for 15 years. But the full benefits of this growth can only be unlocked if our new Government takes action to make the UK more competitive and encourage further investment, to require digital platforms to pay fairly for music and filter out illegal content, and to give all our schoolchildren the opportunity to play an instrument and discover the joy of making music."


Lewis Capaldi scores a year-end double top as new artists enjoy breakout years

Lewis Capaldi was undoubtedly the British breakout star of 2019. He topped both the Official Singles and Official Album5 year-end charts as his debut album Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent, released in May, was BRIT Certified 2x Platinum, selling over 640,000 albums across all formats and album equivalents, including well over 250,000 copies on CD and vinyl combined, according to Official Charts Company data. It featured the smash hit single Someone You Loved, which racked up over 2.3m chart-eligible sales. Lewis was also a huge success in the USA, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in October.

Whereas soundtrack albums such as The Greatest ShowmanA Star Is Born, and Bohemian Rhapsody dominated the best-sellers list in 2018, the story of 2019 was one of particular success for artists. All three soundtracks retained their place in the upper reaches of the year-end chart, but among the new releases it was new artists who shone as well as established acts: alongside Lewis Capaldi's debut, the top 10 Official Albums Chart for the year included new albums by Ed Sheeran (No. 6 Collaborations Project), Billie Eilish (whose debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was both a critical and commercial smash), Ariana Grande (Thank U Next) and BRITs British Breakthrough recipient Tom Walker (What A Time To Be Alive). 

There were also top selling new solo releases by Rod Stewart (You're In My Heart, which claimed the Official Charts Christmas No.1 Album), Stormzy (Heavy Is The Head, the much-anticipated follow-up to his number one debut Gang Signs and Prayer), Harry Styles (his second full-length LP Fine Line), Dave (the Mercury Prize-winning Psychodrama), Robbie Williams (The Christmas Present), and Mark Ronson (Late Night Feelings), to name a few, while albums from Coldplay (Everyday Life) and Elbow (Giants Of All Sizes) also made their mark, as did the self-titled debut LP from BRIT School alumnus Freya Ridings.

British artists dominated the album charts once again, occupying six out of the top 10 year-end places, including both the No.1 and No.2 spots with Lewis and Ed Sheeran respectively, and 14 out of the top 206.  See full year-end Official Charts in Notes to Editors

Demand for albums on vinyl LP and cassette formats continues to grow

We live in an unparalleled time of music discovery, access and consumption, enabling fans to truly pick and choose how they wish to experience their favourite artists. The growing demand for albums on vinyl and cassette formats in 2019 underlined the continuing appeal of analogue alongside streaming and CD, and the fact there is still a strong core of fans and music enthusiasts who also value the opportunity to acquire, own or gift recorded music on physical format.

Vinyl LP sales rose for a twelfth consecutive year, with Liam Gallagher's Why Me? Why Not the most in-demand title, selling over 29,000 copies. The top 10 included new album releases by Billie Eilish and Lewis Capaldi alongside catalogue classics such as Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Queen's Greatest Hits. Vinyl LPs now account for one in every eight albums bought, with 4.3million purchased in 2019, an increase of 4.1 per cent on the previous year and a rise of over 2,000 per cent on the format's low point in 2007.

Like the LP before it, cassette sales are now enjoying a period of sustained growth, although it should be noted that they still only account for just a fraction (0.1%) of overall recorded music consumption. That said, demand has increased for seven consecutive years, and the 2019 sales tally of 80,404 purchases is the biggest annual total recorded in 15 years (99,636 were sold in 2004). The year-end chart topper on the format was Robbie Williams's The Christmas Present – the fastest-selling cassette album since Now 52 in July 2002. Other titles to make the top 10 included releases by Lana Del ReyKylie Minogue and Madonna.

Vanessa Higgins, CEO Regent Street Records, and an independent member of BPI Council, said:

"It's great to see streaming continue to grow and smash through ever impressive landmark numbers. As an independent label owner I would always encourage music lovers to stream their favourite artists, as it's such an easy way to support the smaller musicians.  It's also wonderful to see the continued growth of vinyl and the resurrection of the cassette, which shows fans still love a physical, tangible music artefact in their hands. Personally I would love to see a rebirth in the British manufacture of these products, supported by modern technology and government, to match the rediscovered UK physical market and the untapped potential that still lies there."

Physical and CD continues to be a 'kingmaker' in No.1 albums chart success

While the number of CD and digital albums bought fell by just over a quarter in line with long-term trends (by 26.5% and 28.2% respectively), the formats continue to play an important role in shaping Official Albums Chart success. Physical remains the 'kingmaker for number one albums' – in the majority of weeks (29) in 2019, physical accounted for over half (50% +) of chart-eligible sales of the Official Charts Number One artist album.  For the last quarter of 2019, physical reigned strong with 13 consecutive weeks where physical counted for the majority of chart-eligible sales – accounting for more than 75 per cent in 12 of those weeks. 

Fans invest in the premium 'box set' experience

Consistent with the desire of fans to purchase and collect vinyl, enthusiasts also love to feed their passion for music by investing in premium-quality collections and box sets.  So while they may be buying fewer CDs as a whole, they are tending to spend more on enhanced versions of recordings featuring premium and collectible packaging.  In 2019Queen's Platinum Collection sold well over 100,000 copies on CD, while anniversary releases, such as Don't Stop – 50 Years of Fleetwood Mac and the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Abbey Road by The Beatles, also sold in significant quantities among the best-selling deluxe and box set releases. 

Matt Ingham of leading independent record label and a BPI member, Cherry Red Records, said:

"This year is further proof that music fans have never had so much choice in the way they consume music. The CD format is in a process of transformation; multi-CD boxsets are becoming a beautiful and collectible artefact that represent the best values of A&R, design, quality and research. It remains the format of choice for most artists to market and sell on the road and also remains a major asset to independent record labels. The LP is rightly cherished as a stylish, almost organic celebration of the album as an art form, while the multi-CD approach is becoming the best way to bring together a coherent, engaging musical narrative; be it a band's journey or a genre's history. Alongside initiatives like National Album Day and Record Store Day, the independent community is using all available physical and digital tools to ensure its place at the cutting edge of music going into 2020."

Singer songwriter Tom Speight, who in 2019 released his debut album 'Collide' and was supported by the Music Export Growth Scheme to tour overseas, said:

"I've enjoyed an amazing break-out year releasing my debut LP 'Collide'. As an artist and performer I feel that I'm able to connect with a global music market, where you can develop and grow a passionate fan-base both here in the UK and in other parts of the world through streaming services complemented by a deeper relationship with fans through vinyl and CD physical purchases as well as having a busy live touring schedule and social media audience. I can't wait to record and release my follow up album to build on this momentum and to draw on the palpable optimism that feels to be out there for new artists."  

Although the compilations market continues to be impacted by the popularity of streaming playlists, the NOW brand continues to thrive. In 2019 it accounted for over 1.25m CD sales and over a third of all full price compilations sales, while NOW's digital platform saw over 1bn streams.

The story of the decade in charts: 2010 – 2019

Following a dip in consumption around the middle of the decade reflecting the transition between purchased content and streaming, the rise in popularity in audio streaming on services such as Spotify, Apple and Deezer from around 2014 onwards, complemented by the vinyl revival and boosted by increased label investment in new artists, has helped to fuel a rise in demand for recorded music over the past five years.

Album Equivalent Sales (AES) of 154m represent a 13 per cent rise in demand since the start of the decade, and are now at their highest level since 2006, when the figure stood at 161.4m and the best-selling album was Eyes Open by Snow Patrol (which sold 1.5m copies).

The number of yearly audio streams is up by around 3,000 per cent since 2012, and streams now account for three quarters of UK music consumption, with over 114 billion plays in 2019.  In 2010 physical albums enjoyed a similar share (72.7%) of music consumption.

However, while mainstream access to recorded music has evidently transitioned from CD to streaming over this decade, the physical format remains remarkably resilient and still accounts for nearly a fifth of music consumption. 

Vinyl and even cassette have rebounded during this time, with both formats registering a 2,000 per cent rise since their low points in 2007 and 2012 respectively.

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