British music exports reach new high as record number of UK artists top 100 million streams in 2021

New BPI analysis reveals British recorded music exports grew to £590.8 million in 2021, a 13.7 percent increase and the highest total on record.

Liam Konemann
  • By Liam Konemann
  • 20 Jul 2022
  • min read

The value of British recorded music exports grew by 13.7% to a new annual high of £590.8 million in 2021, new figures released by the BPI reveal.

The analysis shows that physical and digital download sales, streams and other consumption of British music increased in every region around the world. Europe saw a 17.6 percent increase, while numbers in North America and Asia were up 11 percent and 11.1 percent respectively. Ten of the UK’s 20 biggest music export markets experienced double-digit percentage growth on the previous year, led by China with a 61.2 percent year-on-year increase.

While there were significant rises for territories where UK music has traditionally thrived, including the US (up 10.4 percent), Germany (up 31.3 percent), France (up 20.1 percent) and Canada (up 18.0 percent), the report also highlighted the increasing importance of Latin America to UK music. Exports in the region grew by of 12.7 percent overall in 2021, with a year-on-year increase of 19.2 percent in Mexico alone.

The growth was driven in large part by a record number of UK artists reaching over 100 million global streams in 2021. These artists include not just superstars such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Dave, but also breakthrough acts including PinkPantheress, Rex Orange County and Glass Animals. According to BPI analysis of streaming data, nearly 400 UK amassed over 100 million audio streams worldwide in 2021, compared to around 300 artists at this level in 2020. More than 600 UK artists achieved at least 50 million audio streams, while over 1,500 surpassed 10 million audio streams, generating significant annual income in addition to their earnings from other sources, such as live touring, physical and digital music sales, broadcast and public performance, merchandising and sync.

Recent industry forecasts have predicted that by 2030, worldwide recorded music trade revenues could as much as double from their 2021 level of US$25.9 billion. If the UK is able to match this projected growth, British music exports would rise to £1 billion or more by the end of the decade. 

Speaking on the analysis Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize, says: ‘These record-breaking figures once again highlight the extraordinary popularity of British music internationally. This is not just about our much-loved superstars, but new artists and bands from all over the UK who, with their label’s investment and expertise, are able to successfully navigate the competitive streaming landscape.

‘Recent market estimates suggest the global recorded music industry could double in size by 2030, meaning there’s ample opportunity for more artists to achieve international success and for music to deliver for UK PLC. But continued success isn’t guaranteed, as competition increases from international markets, making it harder to cut through and putting pressure on our global market share. The Music Exports Growth Scheme provides vital funding to help independent labels and artists expand their businesses overseas, and with sustained support from Government, British music will continue to thrive all around the world.’