The BPI’s annual yearbook All About the Music 2021 is out now. It gives a detailed insight into the UK’s year in recorded music in 2020, illuminated by numerous facts, figures and informed analysis.

Written and compiled by Rob Crutchley and edited by Chris Green, and featuring a foreword by BPI & BRITs Chief Executive Geoff Taylor, this 42nd edition of the BPI’s authorative industry yearbook evaluates UK music consumption and trends in 2020 over 80 pages.

The book is presented in five major sections covering the size and value of the UK market; an analysis of sales and streams; a detailed breakdown of the market; consumer behaviour and demographics; and how British music is performing in the global market.

All About the Music 2021 highlights a number of important music trends in 2020, from showing how music helped the UK get through the pandemic, with over a quarter of the British public reporting that they listened to more music since the start of lockdown, to the continuing rise of rap and hip hop, which now accounts for well over a fifth of all UK singles consumption – a six-fold increase on 1999.

Music consumption was up for a sixth year, with 155m albums or their equivalent streamed or purchased – an 8.2% rise on 2019. Growth was led by streaming, fuelled by rising label investment into A&R and marketing.  There were 139bn audio streams, up by over a fifth, with nearly 200 artists streamed over 100m times. UK artists led by Lewis Capaldi, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa accounted for 8 of the top 10 albums, but we also saw a new wave of diverse talent, each hitting hundreds of millions of streams, driving growth, including AJ Tracey, Aitch, J Hus, Joel Corry, Mabel, KSI, Headie One, Jorja Smith and Gerry Cinnamon.

Streaming now accounts for 80% of music consumption, complemented by nearly 5m vinyl LPs purchased – a 13th year of growth. There have never been more ways to discover, share, enjoy and collect music than now, evidenced by the fact that cassettes continued their unlikely revival also, with 157,000 purchased in 2020.

The increase in consumption translated into recorded music revenues rising 3.8% to reach £1.118bn – the highest total since 2006 and the fifth consecutive year of growth, although the rate of growth slowed due to the effects of the pandemic.  Revenues from streaming fuelled the rise, growing 15.4% to £736.5m. Physical revenues decreased only marginally by 2.6% to £210m – helped by the response of independent shops and specialist chains and their loyal customers who moved their purchasing online.  Climbing revenues from vinyl, boosted by online campaigns, increased by nearly a third (30.5%) to £86.5m – the highest total since 1989.  This helped to cushion reduced CD sales income, which, though still resilient, fell by 18.5%.

“ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC 2020” is available free to all BPI members and can be purchased here.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said in his foreword to All About The Music 2021:

“In my introduction to last year’s All About The Music I remarked upon the challenges that the music community was facing at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in my bleakest estimation I would not have forecast the catastrophic effect the virus would wreak on society and so many people’s lives, and that one year on from the first imposition of national lockdown we would only now begin to see a possible way out through the success of the vaccination programme.

“The damage to our industry was, and is, severe and this was particularly true for the live music sector which was effectively put on hold, to devastating effect for all in its wider ecosystem.  Its impact was most felt by those artists who rely on performance for their regular income, which in turn prompted a DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into the Economics of Streaming.  Against this backdrop the wider industry rightly came together to provide financial aid, with Stagehand’s COVID-19 Crew Relief Fund and Help Musicians’ Coronavirus Financial Hardship Fund among the beneficiaries of £1.7m worth of donations coordinated by BPI to charities and organisations supporting artists, managers and venues.

“Retailers too faced unprecedented challenges and many had to swiftly pivot to mail order solutions and, later in the year, adjust their businesses to facilitate social distancing.  They did so imaginatively and in large part successfully, working in close partnership with labels and distributors, and drawing on the loyalty of their customers.  Rather than cancel, Record Store Day was re-organised into three highly successful ‘drops’ of product later in the year, and initiatives such as Love Record Stores, Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties and The Record Club in association with Bowers & Wilkins helped drive engagement and enthusiasm around new music and classic recordings. The third National Album Day was another highlight. Taking place in early October with the theme of the 1980s, there was strong support from retailers and streaming services alike, and six of the top 10 biggest-selling vinyl albums were titles released especially for the event.

“Even though the pandemic exiled BPI’s staff from the office, as it did with music companies and so many other businesses, I’m pleased to say that, despite the challenges, we were able to provide a continuous service for our members in the virtual world. If anything we stepped up our many and varied activities: from our regular insight sessions and international trade events to independent member meetings, as well as a new programme of webinars and training on diversity and inclusion.  In total we staged around 70 online sessions and meetings attended by over 7,000 members and industry and media guests. In the first weeks of 2021 alone we’ve launched a new Membership Inclusion Programme and our Equality Sessions, provided member briefings on Brexit, won major High Court victories against illegal stream ripping apps and cyberlocker sites, and announced the latest recipients of Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS) funding. 

“The pandemic inevitably had an effect on the staging of some of our flagship events. The 2020 BRITs with Mastercard took place, as usual, in February, with stunning performances from Dave, Billie Eilish and Stormzy among others, and with Celeste announced as the latest BRITs Rising Star following a remarkable line of brilliant new talent which began with Adele in 2008. The ‘new normal’ did, however, put paid to the public live event for the Hyundai Mercury Prize. But in its place, arguably achieving an even wider reach, was a live announcement on BBC One’s The One Show, which was followed by a Later With Jools special the evening after. Livestreamed performances on YouTube and listening parties on Twitter helped build the buzz, and the winner - Michael Kiwanuka’s excellent Kiwanuka - shot back into the top five of the Official Album Chart as a result. The creative thinking and hard work of all who managed to reimagine it so successfully is to be applauded.

“One theme of this year’s All About The Music is the comfort and inspiration that music has offered in these times of isolation. In AudienceNet’s Audiomonitor 2020 survey well over half (58%) of respondents stated that music was central to their lives. For almost two thirds (64%) it helped them deal with challenging life circumstances, with over half (58%) saying that music is a big reflection of who they are. The survey data also reveal just how flexible and adaptable music is as a companion – it can raise spirits, help with sleep, aid concentration or provide motivation. And perhaps most importantly, in a time of great uncertainty, it’s a source of reassurance.

“Although unable to see their favourite artists in person, many fans stayed connected to them during lockdown: a fifth of music listeners watched a livestream in 2020 according to AudienceNet, and for over two thirds of them it was the first time they had done so. Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 event was one of the most spectacular, and capped a year of extraordinary international success for her. Dua’s Future Nostalgia album was released in a time of great anxiety – just as the first national lockdown was announced – but connected in a big way, going on to be the top-selling album released in 2020. Despite the challenges of releasing and promoting new music, the year saw a number of notable achievements for British artists with Headie One, IDLES, Nines, Gerry Cinnamon and Yungblud among those attaining their first ever Official Charts number one albums. Joel Corry enjoyed a breakout year internationally and artists such as Aitch and KSI racked up streams in the hundreds of millions.

“The coexistence of the old and the new was very much one of the themes of the year. Listening parties on social media were centred around rediscovering confirmed classics as much as introducing potential new ones. Users of TikTok surfaced both the unfamiliar and the known through their creations, making shanty-singing Scottish postmen famous and putting established stars back in the spotlight by way of lip-synching, juice-drinking skateboarders. And while plays on audio streaming services reached a new peak – over 139bn in 2020 – vinyl LP sales jumped by over a tenth to reach almost 5m, with cassette sales at their highest level since 2003.  There has never been more choice of music available nor in the way it can be discovered, shared, collected and enjoyed.

“It all meant that, notwithstanding the many challenges it faced, UK recorded music proved relatively insulated from the worst ravages of the pandemic, and was able to post an 8.2% rise in consumption: 155m albums or their equivalent were either streamed or purchased in 2020, in turn contributing to a 3.8% rise in UK recorded music revenue to reach £1.118 billion –  the highest total since 2006 and the sixth consecutive year of growth.  This growth speaks not only to the centrality of music to people’s lives, but also to the appeal of a new wave of diverse UK talent that has harnessed the global reach of streaming to forge successful careers. It also highlights the essential role of record labels, who invest hundreds of millions of pounds annually in the UK, signing and developing artists and bringing their creative visions to life for an increasingly global audience.

“Whilst I don’t underestimate the challenges that still lie ahead – which are now being compounded post-Brexit by the new hurdles our artists and their teams face when touring the EU – it’s hard not to feel a measure of optimism that we can now see a way forward for our industry to continue its growth of recent years.  Much, of course, will depend on securing the return of live music at scale as soon as possible, but the opportunities are real, in particular as the global streaming market continues to grow. With the right Government support, the UK can double its music exports to £1 billion per year by the end of this decade.

“Finally, I would like to thank once again our brilliant BPI Research team for their efforts in putting together this yearbook.  We hope that it helps you in your business as you navigate 2021 and beyond."