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Music retail revenues up 4.6% in 2016

By | Published on Thursday 5 January 2017

Record Shops

So, CD sales were down, downloads tanked, streaming boomed and the vinyl revival marched on in the UK last year, a set of trends that make it very tempting to just re-run our report on 2015 sales figures. If you’re super busy, basically, it was more of the same.

But let’s assume you’ve actually got time on your hands. After all, this isn’t really a working week, is it? I mean, you’ve been telling everyone in the office what a massive inbox backlog you’re now tackling, but we all know you’re still basically on Christmas break because, frankly, the new working year doesn’t properly begin until next week. And what, exactly, can’t wait until next Monday?

So, go on, make yourself a big cup of tea, stick one of the stale mince pies that have been in the kitchen since the Christmas party into the microwave, because that way you won’t notice just how stale it is, and then let’s waffle our way through some of the stats unleashed by the BPI and Entertainment Retailer’s Association this week, shall we?

Good. Recorded music’s retail revenues were up 4.6% in 2016, according to ERA, so well done everybody. In fact, fuck it, splash out on some fresh mince pies. I bet they’re on offer at Tesco Metro. And let’s note that retail revenues for the video and gaming markets only grew by 2.2% and 2.9% respectively, so they can fuck off. I mean, overall they both bring in way more money than recorded music, but it’s all about growth these days isn’t it? One mince pie per percentage point growth, that’s the going rate.

Recorded music’s growth was all about the streams of course, with subscription revenues up 65% year-on-year. Which is pretty damn impressive and just the kind of boom that definitely justifies dedicating several thousand column inches and entire sections of your news programmes to the vinyl revival. Because, vinyl, woo!

Downloads were still down loads, which is good news for fans of that joke, with good old fashioned iTunes et al bringing in 26.8% less cash last year. Meanwhile CDs, the decline of which had slowed considerably in the UK in recent years, saw a bigger decline in 2016 than 2015, with revenues slipping 13% last year. But hey, what about that vinyl revival!

Overall, UK revenues from music retail, including physical, downloads and streams, came in at more than £1.1 billion, up from just over £1 billion in 2015. In case you’re interested, the home video market was worth over £2.2 billion and gaming £2.9 billion, but we’ve already told those guys to fuck off, so they’re not around to gloat.

Even if they are, well, let’s move onto the stats put out by record industry trade group the BPI earlier this week, because those put the focus on consumption rather than revenue, which nicely fuzzes everything up. Especially given that the figures rely on a metric no one really understands that equates streams to album sales.

When you mush the figures together in that fashion, creating a nice if slightly abstract beige goo, you find that 123 million album units were (sort of) shifted in 2016, which is 1.5% more than in 2015 (and 2015 was, for reporting purposes, a 53 week year).

If you find the whole combining streams and sales thing a bit confusing, don’t worry, that makes you a normal person. Well done. Have another mince pie and read what BPI boss Geoff Taylor has to say: “Growth in UK music consumption in 2016 was fuelled by the explosive rise in audio streaming, which has increased 500% since 2013, and relative resilience from physical formats. So that’s good. Are you going to eat all those mince pies, or is one going spare?”

Ah, look at that, Geoff joining in with the running theme of this report. Let’s celebrate with some vinyl revival waffle. “Led by sales of David Bowie, demand for vinyl jumped to levels not seen since the start of the 90s, and fans also bought and collected music on CD that they are discovering and enjoying through streaming services in ever larger numbers”. Oh Geoff, you just reminded me that David Bowie’s still dead. And I was this close to giving you my spare mince pie.

“We believe this performance is indicative of the promise of a new era for music”, the BPI boss muses on, “where recorded music’s investments in a digital future fuel compelling benefits for fans, artists and the entire music ecosystem”. Ah, the entire music ecosystem. Hello entire music ecosystem. Happy new year. I really should have said that before now, shouldn’t I? Though no ‘happy new year’ from Geoff I note.

“Happy new year everybody”, says ERA CEO Kim Bayley. Ah, look at that. That’s nice isn’t it? Can I interest you in a stale mince pie Kim? “The music, video and games industries were understandably nervous about the advent of new digital services”. Yeah, I know, but what about this mince pie? “These figures provide resounding evidence of the benefits of our members’ investment in innovation”. Do they? Well, well done them. About this mince pie.

“To have added over £1 billion in new revenues in just four years is an incredible achievement”. Oh, yeah, the wider entertainment retail sector has seen its revenues grow by a billion in four years. “To put it another way, take away the digital services and the entertainment market would be barely a third the size it is today”. Yeah, but no one’s suggesting we do that, are they? That’s it, I’m giving this mince pie to Geoff.

Anyway, what about that vinyl revival, hey? 3.2 million records shifted, a 53% year-on-year rise and, according to the BPI, “the highest annual total in a quarter of a century since 1991, when Simply Red’s ‘Stars’ topped the annual best-seller charts”. Ah shit, you just reminded me Mick Hucknall’s not dead yet. Fuck you BPI, I’m keeping this mince pie.