New research from the BPI, the representative voice for independent labels and major record companies across the UK, reveals that streaming success is spread across many more artists compared to the CD era.
Based on Official Charts data, the findings show that the 10 leading streaming artists made up just 4.9% of the audio streaming market in the UK last year. This compares to the top 10 artists in 2007, when CD was the leading format, making up 10.9% of that year’s artist album sales.
As the analysis moves further down the market, the democratisation that streaming has brought is made even clearer. While the top 100 artists in 2007 claimed 45.1% of artist album sales during the year, the 100 leading streaming artists last year made up just 19.0% of 2022’s audio streaming numbers. Nearly 90% (87.8%) of artist album sales in 2007 were achieved by just 1,000 artists, compared to last year when the top 1,000 streaming artists claimed only 50.1% of streams, leaving almost half the market to thousands of other artists.
Sophie Jones, BPI Chief Strategy Officer and Interim Chief Executive, said:
“The streaming market is enabling more artists to achieve real success and earn a meaningful living by opening up huge opportunities in the recorded music market. It enables artists from all genres and backgrounds to instantly reach a global audience.
“This includes a blossoming generation of talent who are developing dedicated and enthusiastic fanbases alongside artists with mainstream followings. They are generating many millions of streams, as well as significant royalties each year.
“While streaming has created unparalleled levels of competition, given the tens of thousands of new tracks that are uploaded to the main digital services every day, it is also providing opportunities for more artists than ever before.”
Although the CD era was extremely prosperous for a select group of artists with the biggest album releases potentially selling millions of copies just in the UK, this was also a period when commercial success was concentrated in relatively few hands. This is in sharp contrast to today’s streaming-dominated market when many more artists are flourishing.
More than 2,000 artists each generated at least 10 million audio streams of their music in the UK in 2022. This included a wide variety of contemporary British artists, which supports a ‘long tail’ of sometimes quite niche music tastes. These cover a wide variety of genres and styles.
At the top end of the market, more than 200 artists generated at least 100 million UK streams of their music last year. They would have also accumulated royalties from their music being streamed overseas. According to BPI analysis, on average 80% of the leading UK artists’ streams occur internationally, which means their UK stream counts should typically be multiplied by five to produce their global stream total. However, this is a general estimate and can vary considerably depending on the individual artist. In a number of cases, the international share is actually far bigger. This scale is important when considering how many streams it takes to be successful in the UK market. In fact, streaming success starts in the millions - the UK’s 5,000th most popular track last year was streamed 5 million times, while 1.3 million audio streams per week are needed on average to break into the Official Singles Top 40 and a combined 7 million audio and video streams to reach No.1.
Alongside the opportunity that streaming has provided artists, there are many other income sources that have evolved and grown over time, including broadcast and public performance revenues via PPL, merchandising and synch revenue from film, TV and games soundtracks and advertising, brand partnerships and sponsorships, alongside the traditional ones such as live touring income and the sale of physical recordings.