Vinyl sales bigger than YouTube for British artists

Resurgent sales of music on vinyl generated more income for UK artists than YouTube last year, with British acts including Adele and Ed Sheeran accounting for a record one in six of all the albums sold worldwide.

Vinyl sales grew for the eighth consecutive year in 2015 with more than 2m LPs sold in the UK, the most since at least 1994 when Wet Wet Wet and Bon Jovi were among the year’s biggest artists.

The BPI, the record labels’ association that promotes British music, said the surge in popularity of British music was not being matched by proceeds from advertising-funded streaming websites such as YouTube.

It said YouTube and similar operators contributed a “meagre” £24.4m to music industry coffers, despite an 88% increase in music video streams to nearly 27bn last year. That was narrowly eclipsed by the £25.1m earned by labels from the sale of 2.1m vinyl LPs in 2015.

Both represent relatively small parts of the industry revenues generated by both streaming and sales of recorded music. Total revenues generated by British music amounted to £688m, a fall of 1% on last year.

The BPI called on the government to fix the so-called “value grab” by websites such as YouTube who, it said, paid lower royalties than subscription audio streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, which contributed a combined £146.1m.

Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of the BPI and the Brit awards, said: “It is hugely encouraging that demand for British music is so strong at home and abroad thanks to our brilliant artists and the continual innovation and investment of our record labels.

“Yet the fact that sales revenues dipped in a record year for British music shows clearly that something is fundamentally broken in the music market, so that artists and the labels that invest in them no longer benefit fairly from growing demand.

“Instead, dominant tech platforms like YouTube are able to abuse liability protections as royalty havens, dictating terms so they can grab the value from music for themselves, at the expense of artists.

“The long-term consequences of this will be serious, reducing investment in new music, making it difficult for most artists to earn a living, and undermining the growth of more innovative services like Spotify and Apple Music that pay more fairly for the music they use.”

A spokesperson for YouTube said: “For years, the music industry lost millions of dollars as piracy rates soared. Thanks to our rights management system, Content ID, rightsholders have complete control of their music on YouTube and can easily decide whether to have content taken down, or profit from it.

“Today, revenue from Content ID represents 50% of what we pay out annually. In fact, ad-supported music streaming enables revenue from an audience that has never before paid for music. As more advertising money comes online, this will grow to match consumption. Comparisons to other audio-only, subscription music services are apples to oranges.”

Audio streaming grew 82% last year to 26.6bn plays in the UK, according to BPI figures published on Friday in its Music Market 2016 yearbook.

There were another 26.9bn video streams on sites such as YouTube and Vevo, a combined total of nearly 54bn.

With more people streaming music than buying it, the decline in digital downloads accelerated, falling by 13.5%. Total album sales fell by 6.2% as a result, although the fall in the CD market, down 3.9%, was less marked than in recent years.

Adele’s 25 led the global bestseller list with 17.4m copies sold, including 2.5m in the UK.

UK artists took a record 17.1% share of the global market. Five of the global top 10 were British acts, also including Ed Sheeran, One Direction, Sam Smith and Coldplay.

British artists also accounted for seven of the top 10 bestsellers in the UK, an 18-year market share high of 54.7%.

Global top 10 albums of 2015

1. Adele – 25
2. Ed Sheeran – X
3. Taylor Swift – 1989
4. Justin Bieber – Purpose
5. Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
6. One Direction – Made in the AM
7. Various Artists – Fifty Shades of Grey
8. Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams
9. Meghan Trainor – Title
10. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

UK top 10 albums of 2015

1. Adele – 25
2. Ed Sheeran – X
3. Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
4. Elvis Presley – If I Can Dream
5. Various – Now 92
6. Various – Now 90
7. Various – Now 91
8. Justin Bieber – Purpose
9. Taylor Swift – 1989
10. Jess Glynne – I Cry When I Laugh

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