As the format accounts for over 80 percent of music consumption in 2020, Lewis Capaldi tops the list.
The angst-ridden ballads of Lewis Capaldi were the largest soundtrack of the British pandemic, industry figures for 2020 show, as streaming music rose in the lockout by more than 20 percent.
Streaming accounted for more than 80 percent of all music consumption last year in the UK, when 139 billion audio streams were listened to by individuals, up from 114 billion in 2019.
While the fringe demand for vinyl and even audio cassettes continued to rise, CD sales decreased by nearly a third year on year.
For eight of the top 10 albums, British artists, led by Capaldi, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa, were responsible. More than 100 million times, nearly 200 artists were streamed, with the BPI hailing a new wave of diverse talent driving the growth of the music industry, including acts like Aitch, AJ Tracey, Headie One, J Hus and KSI.
The most streamed album in the UK was the 24-year-old Scottish singer-album songwriter’s Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Degree. With tracks whose lyrics talk of “day bleed[ing]into nightfall” in isolation for the second year in a row.
Two of the 10 highest selling songs, a hit list topped by The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights, were also recorded by Capaldi.
Consumption rose for the sixth straight year, with an equivalent of 155 million albums sold, 8.2 percent more than the previous year, according to the record label association BPI. The figures were recalibrated to include a video streaming feature that was weighted alongside other audio streams charged for.
The increase in listenership came at a time when, despite a decrease in demand at the start of the first lockdown in the spring, the live sector was nearly wiped out by pandemic lockdown laws.
Streaming was fuelled, according to BPI, by increasing label investment in A&R (artists and repertoire), the talent quest and creative growth arm of the industry.
In 2019, A&R investment rose to more than £ 250 million, taking in more diverse rap, hip-hop, dance and other genres of talent.
“A new wave of UK talent is using the immediacy of streaming to achieve fantastic success, measured in hundreds of millions or even billions of streams,” BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said.
In order to secure the future of British music and boost UK exports and soft power, record labels invest heavily in fresh artists.
He added, “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.”
In 2020, the top 10 streaming artists each achieved over half a billion streams in the United Kingdom. Although 8,000 separate acts now total more than 1 million streams a year on their own.
In the U.K., CD sales dropped another 31 percent. While the BPI said the format is durable and still plays a significant role, to 16 million units.
The CD is still a “kingmaker,” Drew Hill, managing director of distributor Proper Music, said, with most number one albums still coming from physical sales.
As a premium and collectible medium, vinyl record sales continued their revival, rising 11.5 percent for the 13th consecutive year to 4.8 million copies sold. Albums from happier decades were re-issued by top sellers: Rumors by Fleetwood Mac, accompanied by Oasis and Amy Winehouse.
For the audio tape, sales of which almost doubled in the UK, there was an even more unlikely, if rather niche, revival. 157,000 copies, followed by Chromatica from Lady Gaga.
While we celebrate this streaming boom, Hill added, “While we celebrate this streaming boom, it’s important that we also remember the continued demand from fans for something tangible and acknowledge that streaming and physical music coexist quite happily.”
In the meantime, Taylor said that during the ongoing Covid constraints, it is important that the government fund venues and festivals until the industry can bounce back, with live revenue a large part of the income of many artists.
Despite the growth of streaming, he said, “Any satisfaction we can take is tempered by the devastating impact of the pandemic on live music. We renew our calls to the government to support our culturally important venues, nightclubs and festivals until they can safely reopen.”