UK Music Industry Pumps $5.4 Billion Into British Economy; Calls for Brexit Protection Increase

Billboard

Britain's success as one of the biggest exporters of music must be protected in the post-Brexit world, warns a new report from umbrella trade organization UK Music.

In 2015, music exports totaled £2.2 billion ($2.9 billion) -- up slightly on the previous year's figure and over half of the £4.1 billion ($5.4 billion) that the music business contributed to Britain's economy, according to UK Music's annual "Measuring Music" study.

By far the biggest contributor to the industry's strong performance was domestic and international revenues generated by British musicians, composers, lyricists and songwriters, which alone added up to £2 billion ($2.7 billion).

Fueled by the international success of acts like Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Adele, whose third album 25 has sold over 20 million copies worldwide since its release last fall, exports of recorded music were up 8.9 percent with one out of every six artist albums sold across the globe in 2015 by British artists. Additionally, five of the top ten selling albums worldwide were by U.K. acts, according to previously released IFPI figures. That was not enough, however, to prevent a slight dip in overall recorded music sales, which fell to £610 million ($810 million) from £614 million ($815 million) the previous year.

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The live sector also played a crucial role in supporting a thriving industry, with over 27 million people attending live music events in the United Kingdom last year, generating £904 million ($1.2 billion) -- a £20 million fall on the previous year's total, which UK Music attributed to a decline in grassroots music venues throughout London and the wider country. Of those 27 million people who attended concerts and festivals, over 750,000 were overseas music tourists.

Other significant revenue streams included music publishing, which totaled £412 million ($547 million) and the £119 million ($158 million) generated by music producers, recording studios and staff. Music representatives, defined as collecting societies, managers and trade bodies, contributed an additional £92 million ($122 million). All sectors were broadly flat with the previous year's figures. Their combined revenues helped support almost 120,000 full time jobs in the British music industry, around 70,000 of which are employed as musicians, composers, lyricists and songwriters.

"To say that the U.K. punches above its weight is a massive understatement," said culture secretary Karen Bradley in the report's foreword. "Extraordinary talent is not enough, however. Magic may be a part of the creative process but careers in music don't happen by magic. This government will do all it can to help -- through investment; ongoing consideration of tax laws; and working closely with UK Music, schools, orchestras, conservatoires, Lottery distribution bodies, and everyone else who wants to see British music flourish," she went on to say.

"The U.K. needs to solidify its new post-Brexit place in the world and music will undoubtedly be part of the glue that does this," argued UK Music chief executive Jo Dipple.

"Our export profile is astounding which is partly why music, like sport, gives the world an understanding of our small country. UK Music's goal is to work with government to convince them to give us policies as good as the music we produce," she went on say, echoing industry-wide calls to address the 'value gap' between growing music consumption and declining revenues generated for artists and rights holders.

"Copyright law, within and outside the EU, must allow U.K.-made IP content to flourish in global markets," said Dipple. Those sentiments were reinforced in the "Measuring Music" report, which conceded that while "YouTube and other similar ad-funded services remain a vital way for the music industry to reach music fans, the value gap between creators, rights owners and parts of the tech industry that rely on ad-revenues over subscription and licensed income is too wide and needs to be addressed immediately."