New music is by far the biggest driver of music consumption in the UK, with nearly three-quarters of last year’s 100 biggest hits having been released this decade, according to new analysis from the BPI, the representative voice for the UK’s world leading record labels and music companies.
Based on Official Charts data, 72% of the 100 most-streamed tracks in 2022 came out in the 2020s, while only one entry in the year-end Top 20 – Kate Bush’s 80s classic Running Up That Hill – was released before then. This domination of new or recent music, which challenges the perception that streaming consumption is made up largely of older songs by heritage artists, is also evident more widely across the streaming market, with more than 60% of streams last year coming from tracks released during the last ten years.
The deep dive into the make-up of the UK’s streaming market is documented, alongside many other trends and stats, in All About The Music 2023 – the 44th edition of the BPI Yearbook, which is out now1.
The research includes a decade-by-decade breakdown of the streams generated by the top 15,000 tracks of 2022. Although the likes of Kate Bush’s classic hit and music by such heritage artists as Fleetwood Mac and Queen are winning new audiences via streaming, the analysis shows that the vast majority of music streamed last year was released after the millennium. In fact, nearly one-third (32.2%) of streams generated by the year’s top 15,000 tracks was for music from the current decade, another one third (34.2%) for music from the 2010s and 12.7% for music from the 2000s. This means music released since 2000 made up almost 80% (79.1%) of the streams accumulated by the year’s top 15,000 tracks.
The share claimed last year by tracks from the 2010s included Location by Dave featuring Burna Boy, Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran, George Ezra’s Shotgun, Harry Styles’ Watermelon Sugar and Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved, which all featured among the year’s top 100 streamed tracks.
The enduring popularity of these songs highlights one of the key benefits of the streaming dynamic for artists – a successful new release can result in continued long-term demand through repeat plays and an audience that relentlessly grows over time. It will also keep generating additional new income for them, unlike with the sale of a download or physical product where revenue is generated just once, at the point of purchase.
Music from the 1990s accounted for 6.6% of the streams of the year’s top 15,000 tracks, slightly ahead of the 1980s (6.4%), while 4.8% of the streams were from the 1970s, 2.6% from the 1960s and 0.5% from the 1950s or earlier. In total, music released before the millennium accounted for just a fifth (20.9%) of streams, with a clear pattern of each preceding decade having a smaller market share.
When the market is analysed by the age of the most-streamed tracks, the popularity of new or recent tracks becomes even clearer. Music from the last two years provided more than a quarter (25.4%) of streams generated by the year’s top 15,000 tracks, music from the last five years made up 43.5% of streams and music from the last ten years 60.2% of streams.
One notable trend the analysis also highlights is the duration of time it can now take for a track to reach its commercial peak after release. A case in point is BRITs Rising 2023 nominee and former BRIT School student Cat Burns, whose debut single Go was first released in July 2020, but did not hit its chart peak of No. 2 on the Official Singles Chart until June 2022, almost two years later. Tracks more than a year old are currently defined as “catalogue” by the Official Charts Company. Go finished as the third most-streamed track in the UK last year, behind Harry Styles’ As It Was and Ed Sheeran’s Bad Habits.
Chris Brown’s Under The Influence is another example of a slow-burning hit that only reached its peak last year. Originally released in 2019 as a cut on the R&B singer’s ninth studio album Indigo, the track became a global hit three years later after going viral, including reaching No.7 on the UK’s Official Singles Chart.
Besides Running Up That Hill, which reached No. 1 in the UK in June last year 37 years after its original release, other tracks also enjoyed notable revivals in 2022. Mirroring the sync2 success of the Kate Bush track, Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World finished among the year’s top 100 after also featuring in the fourth season of the Netflix series Stranger Things. Tom Odell’s decade-old Another Love returned to the weekly Official Singles Chart Top 20 and Arctic Monkeys’ 505 – originally a non-single cut on their 2007 second album Favourite Worst Nightmare – became the group’s top-streaming track after going viral. These successes show how streaming can breathe new commercial life into tracks and generate fresh income for the artists behind them years or even decades after they were first released.
Despite the revival of 80s hits by Kate Bush and Tears For Fears, overall only eight tracks released before 2000 finished among the 100 most-streamed tracks of 2022. Three of these were Christmas classics – by Brenda Lee, Mariah Carey and Wham!.
Sophie Jones, BPI Chief Strategy Officer and Interim Chief Executive, said:
“As Kate Bush’s inspiring chart-topping comeback last year highlighted, consumers can now access the entire history of recorded music via streaming services. However, while this is feeding an appetite for music from the past, contrary to some perceptions, it is still new releases that make up the vast majority of what we listen to. This creates the space for new talent to break through and – supported by their record labels – connect with fans in a hyper-competitive streaming landscape.
“What’s also clear is that the long-established way of segmenting music into ‘current’ and ‘catalogue’ may have worked for CDs, but is increasingly less relevant for the streaming age. Where once tracks typically reached their commercial peak quickly, the more organic pace of the streaming market means it can now take months or even years to reach success – Cat Burns’ Go reached No.2 last year nearly two years after release, and yet would be considered ‘catalogue’ using current definitions. As an industry, we need to revisit how we define catalogue to improve understanding and better reflect how the market works today.”
1 The BPI annual Yearbook “All About The Music 2023” is free to BPI members but can be purchased here.
2 Sync is an abbreviation of « synchronisation » and refers to music specially composed for or used in TV, film and games soundtracks as well as in broadcast advertising.