2015 Stats: Lets Get Physical


New year, new industry sales stats- the 2015 figures are in so read on and dig deep.

First of all, the big headline grabbing good news- According to the latest stats released by The BPI, the UK market was up by 3.5% overall last year, with consumer spending on subscriptions, singles and albums collectively hitting its highest year since 2011. The total retail value of the recorded music market in the UK was £1.059 billion.

The popular narrative to carve out from this is that streaming subscriptions has ‘saved’ the industry from a decline in paid downloads but look closer and there are more interesting trends to harvest.

Perhaps the most surprisingly of which is the resilience of physical formats, with CDs declined by a mere 3.9% year-on-year in 2015. Album sales generated £687m, 64.9% of the year’s total monetary tally.

As expected, vinyl continues to grow and was up by 64% to 2.1m copies sold last year- a 21-year high, but lets not forget that it remains a tiny fraction of the overall market.

Chief Executive of the BPI and BRIT Awards Geoff Taylor, returning from a lengthy quote hiatus, commented: “The soaring popularity of music streaming and the burgeoning vinyl revival mean that UK music consumption rose again in 2015”.

Taylor continued: “Services such as Spotify and Apple Music are going mainstream as more people discover how wonderful it is to have all the music in the world to listen to, whenever and wherever you want. Millions of fans also continue to build treasured collections of favourite albums on vinyl, CD or downloads”.

Despite what The Gen will from now on refer to as the physical resistance, the role of streaming subscriptions should not be underplayed- UK digital album sales declined 13.5% in 2015, falling to 26m as consumers continued the transition to streaming. Audio streams jumped 82% year-on-year to 26.8 billion, up from 14.8bn in 2014 and The BPI now estimates that streaming contributes £251m to the retail value of the overall music market, up by 50% year on year.

Remarkably, however, 66% of all albums purchased in the UK last year were on CD, whilst paid downloads, supposedly the great usurper of physical formats, declined in value to bring in less than £300m in 2015.

So, going into 2016 then: Streaming up, physical not dead and downloads declining- But will 2016 be the year when streaming truly goes mainstream? Despite the above, The Gen does not agree that it is at that tipping point just yet. And is the ‘physical resistance’ an Adele shaped blip or did we all starting wearing the Emperor’s digital clothes a little early?

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