Record £400m UK music sales abroad, but Brexit 'may hit income'

Industry chiefs voice concerns over freedom of movement and intellectual property rights

The popularity of British music abroad has hit a record high as artists including Ed Sheeran, Rag’n’Bone Man and Dua Lipa brought in more than £400m from fans around the world last year.

But the industry body BPI warned that these record revenues could be under threat following Brexit, if agreements aren’t made over intellectual property rights and freedom of movement for touring artists.

“It is absolutely a concern that bureaucracy could make it more difficult for British artists to promote their albums overseas in the EU if we don’t have an acceptable deal,” said BPI chief executive, Geoff Taylor. “We have to make sure our artists can freely travel and tour in the EU – and if there are exceptional producers and executives that we want to bring to the UK, that we’re able to do so freely.”

Sales of British music outside the UK jumped 12% to a record £408.4m last year – the highest level since at least the turn of the century, when records began – with British artists accounting for one in every eight albums sold globally.

A British artist has been behind the world’s bestselling album in nine of the last 13 years. Last year it was Sheeran with his album Divide, which sold 6.1m copies worldwide, excluding streaming.

The record revenues for sales of British music have been spurred by the growth in popularity of streaming music on services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Last year, streaming music revenues surpassed income from the sale of traditional formats such as CDs for the first time, at $6.6bn (£4.7bn).

The BPI said the value of British music exports – sales of CDs, vinyl, streaming and downloads of singles and albums – has brought in more than £5bn since records began in 2000.

As well as issues around freedom of movement, Taylor cited other potential problems amid the Brexit transition. “Our CDs and vinyl are generally manufactured in continental Europe, and so we’re concerned about potential delays, the costs those delays can bring, and the impact on selling physical products in the UK,” he said, adding that the UK government must also ensure “we don’t accept any weakening of our intellectual property protection in trade negotiations”.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

The US remains the single biggest market for British music, accounting for 35% of the £408.4m. However, as a region Europe accounts for 42% of sales, £165m, with revenues from the continent surging 29% in the last two years. China, a tiny but rapidly growing market, reported a five-fold increase in sales of British music.

Taylor said innovations by record label A&R teams, chiefly data analysis, were promoting this global growth. Finding new stars like Sheeran, he said, “requires gut instinct and specialist music knowledge, but also the ability to crunch enormous volumes of data from streaming services and social media and analyse trends within that data, to help identify who has the greatest potential, and with what audiences.

“One of the reasons the British music industry is so successful is that it absorbs cultural influences from around the world, and the last thing musicians want to do is cut themselves off from those influences, and audiences. Overall the music industry is very favourable to staying as close to European markets, and all markets, as we possibly can.”


Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Brits awards 2018: Stormzy and Dua Lipa beat elders to snatch top prizes
London grime MC honoured on night when artists carry white roses in protest against sexual harassment

Nadia Khomami and Ben Beaumont-Thomas

21, Feb, 2018 @10:30 PM

Article image
Brit awards nominations 2018: Dua Lipa beats Ed Sheeran with five
The New Rules singer caps her breakthrough year with the most nominations at British music’s biggest awards ceremony

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

13, Jan, 2018 @6:45 PM

Article image
Full list of winners at the 2018 Brit awards
From Dua Lipa to Harry Styles, here are the winners of the 2018 Brit awards – and the nominees they beat

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

22, Feb, 2018 @12:34 AM

Article image
Ed Sheeran’s Divide puts Warner Music’s streaming income on track to cross £1bn
Streaming services continue to revive fortunes of music industry as new albums from top artists drive sales to record high

Mark Sweney

08, Aug, 2017 @5:33 PM

Article image
Brits 2019: we need female creativity for British music to stay relevant
It was bracing to have my comments about misogyny in music read out on stage by the 1975 – but the British industry needs actions, not words, if it is to let female talent flourish

Laura Snapes

21, Feb, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
All the wins and performances from the Brit awards 2018 – as they happened
It was ‘carnage’ at the O2, according to Jack Whitehall, but Nile Rodgers just called it a ‘vibe’. Dua Lipa and Stormzy were the big winners – the latter’s politically charged on-stage freestyle a fitting closer on another year

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

21, Feb, 2018 @10:48 PM

Article image
Women dominate 2021 Brit awards as Dua Lipa tops winners
2020’s heavily male ceremony reversed with wins for Arlo Parks, Haim and Billie Eilish, as Little Mix become first all-female winner of British group

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Tobi Thomas

11, May, 2021 @9:31 PM

Article image
Someone you loved: how British pop could fade out in Europe
Brexit rule changes that make it tricky to tour the EU will hold back UK artists from a fast-growing market

Laura Snapes

25, Jan, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Fame and fortune rising for female pop stars
Five of most popular pop acts on the Top 40 chart this year were all female

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

27, Dec, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
Calvin Harris and the 1975 lead winners at 2019 Brit awards
Scottish dance producer wins his first two Brits after 14 failed nominations, while the 1975 take British group and British album – and Beyoncé and Jay-Z show support for Meghan Markle

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Aamna Mohdin

20, Feb, 2019 @10:20 PM