British music exports are at their highest level since the turn of the millennium, according to data from the BPI, the industry association.
UK record labels generated overseas revenues of £408.4 million in 2017, up by 12 per cent on the previous year. This is the highest figure recorded by the BPI since it began its annual survey of record label overseas income 18 years ago, when international revenues stood at £363.7 million.
Taking into account payments made overseas, UK labels generated a net £200 million balance of payments surplus for the UK economy in 2017, up by more than a fifth (+23%) on 2016.
This continuing growth, which follows an 11 per cent rise to £364 million in 2016, underlines the enduring popularity of British music, with UK artists accounting for one in every eight albums consumed globally in 2017 and the world’s best-selling artist album in nine of the past thirteen years, most recently with Ed Sheeran’s multi-Platinum Divide.
Last year’s strong export figures were fuelled by global demand for Divide, which sold 6.1 million copies worldwide (excluding streams) according to international music body the IFPI– contributing to Sheeran’s dominance as the Global Recording Artist of 2017 – ahead of Drake and Taylor Swift. Other stand-out performances by British artists included Rag’n’Bone Man, whose debut Human was the fourth best-selling album in the world, ahead of Sam Smith’s The Thrill of it All at No.5 and Harry Styles’ self-titled solo release, which also made the global top 10.
Reflecting on the figures, Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said:
"British music is riding high once again around the world, boosted by the talent of our artists and songwriters and the innovation and investment of record labels. Our music not only enriches the lives of fans around the world, it makes a major contribution to the UK economy through overseas sales and by attracting numerous visitors to the UK.
“With Brexit approaching, music can help to showcase what is exciting about the UK as we forge new trading relationships, but only if our Government supports us by ensuring a strong Brexit deal that enables artists to tour freely, robustly protects music rights, and prevents physical music products being impeded in transit.”
Revenue growth was most-marked across Europe – up 29 per cent over the past two years since 2015. Increases in major markets Germany (9%), France (+57%), Italy (+22%) and Spain (+33%) led the way, contributing to a European total of £165 million in 2017 and a 42 per cent share of the UK’s global music exports. Europe as a whole remains the UK’s biggest export market for music, although the US is the biggest-single national market by a significant margin, accounting for over a third (35%) of the UK’s music earnings1.
The biggest-single rise in exports growth since 2015 came in China (+432%), admittedly from a lower base, with an encouraging five-fold increase in revenues. There were also notable results in Brazil (+57%) and in India (+120%) over this two year-period – underlining the growing importance of Asian and Latin American markets to British music.
Collaborative initiatives that see the UK Government working in partnership with the music industry have also helped to raise the international profile of British artists. The Music Export Growth Scheme(MEGS)4 – managed by the BPI and funded by the Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of the Export is GREAT campaign – has now distributed over £3 million to around 200 music exports projects since it made its very first awards to 15 artists in February 2014. MEGS has to date delivered an £11 return on every £1 invested to help support mainly independently-signed artists develop their fan-bases and commercial opportunities overseas.