Lockdown drives big increase in UK album streams and purchases

Lockdown fuelled a big increase in music consumption in the UK in 2020, as music fans streamed or bought 155m albums or their equivalent, according to the record labels’ association, the BPI. This represents an increase of 8.2 per cent over 2019, though as the BPI points out, the 2020 figures cover a 53-week period, compared to a 52-week period for 2019, so that percentage increase should be a tad lower.

The BPI added that demand initially dipped around the start of the first lockdown, but listening rebounded across streaming and physical formats and grew throughout the year. 

Growth was led by streaming, fuelled by record label A&R and marketing investment

Almost 200 artists achieved over 100m streams or more in the UK over the past 12 months, their success contributing to an overall total of 139bn audio streams in 2020, a 22 per cent increase on 2019. Streaming now accounts for 80.6 per cent of UK music consumption.

The top 10 streaming artists in 2020 each achieved over half a billion streams in the UK alone. But below them in the top 200 there were many artists achieving more than 200m streams, while further down still, even artists ranking between 500 and 1,000 achieved between 43m and 21m UK streams. 8,000 artists now clock up more than a million streams annually.

The year’s Top 5 albums were:

1. Lewis Capaldi: Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
2. Harry Styles: Fine Line 
3. Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia                              
4. Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?  
5. Stormzy: Heavy Is The Head

“A new wave of British talent is capitalising on the immediacy of streaming to achieve fantastic success, measured in the hundreds of millions, even billions of streams,” said BPI Chief Executive, Geoff Taylor. “Record labels are investing heavily in new artists to secure the future of British music, boosting the UK’s exports and soft power.

“The performance of recorded music in 2020 was remarkable, and reminds us how important music is to our country, even when our lives are disrupted. But any satisfaction we can take is tempered by the devastating impact of the pandemic on live music. Recorded music is only one element of artists’ incomes, and we renew our calls on government to support our culturally important venues, nightclubs and festivals until they can safely reopen.”