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Harry Styles Helps UK Music Streams Cross 150 Billion Mark for First Time in 2022

todayJanuary 4, 2023

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A record 159 billion music tracks were streamed in the United Kingdom last year, up 8.2% on 2021 and more than double the volume of audio streams registered five years ago — and more than 40 times bigger than a decade ago — according to year-end figures from labels trade body BPI.

In 2017, just over 68 billion music tracks were streamed in the U.K. That number soared to 159.3 billion in 2022 when an average of more than three billion audio streams were listened to on music streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music every week (the numbers don’t include video streams on YouTube or other video streaming platforms).

BPI reports that it now takes an average of 1.3 million audio streams to break into the U.K.’s official Top 40 singles chart and a combined seven million audio and video streams to score a number one.

Across digital and physical formats, the equivalent of 166 million albums were streamed or purchased last year, up 4.3% on the previous 12 months. Contributing to the rise in music consumption was the ongoing resurgence of vinyl, which shows no signs of slowing.

Sales of vinyl LPs climbed 2.9% year-on-year in the U.K. in 2022 to 5.5 million units — marking a 15th consecutive year of growth for the once considered dead format and the highest level of vinyl purchases in the country since 1990, when …But Seriously by Phil Collins was the year’s biggest-selling studio album.


Vinyl now represents just under one third (31.7%) of all physical music sales in the U.K., while CD sales fell 19.3% year-on-year to 11.6 million units and cassettes climbed 5.2% to 195,000 units. The CD’s share of the U.K. physical market now stands at about 67%, while tapes account for 1.1%, up from 0.9% in 2021.

Overall, streaming now accounts for just over 86% of all music sales in the U.K., up from 83.1% in 2021. That leaves physical formats with 10.4%, digital albums at 2.2% and track equivalent albums with 1.2% of all sales.

Five years ago, streaming accounted for just over 50% of the British market. In line with the year-on-year increase in music streaming, digital download sales fell 18.9% year-on-year to 3.7 million in 2022.

The U.K. is the world’s third biggest recorded music market behind the U.S. and Japan with sales of just over $1.8 billion in trade value, according to IFPI’s 2022 Global Music Report.

BPI’s preliminary year-end report, published Wednesday (Jan. 4), doesn’t include financial sales data. Instead, it uses Official Charts Company data to measure U.K. music consumption in terms of volume. The London-based organization will publish its full year-end report, including recorded music revenues, later this year. Another British trade body, the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), is due to report on annual music retail spending later this month.

For the first time since year-end charts were introduced more than 50 years ago, British artists accounted for the top 10 biggest-selling singles in the U.K. last year (either as the lead or as a featured artist), led by Harry Styles’ “As It Was,” which topped the U.K. singles chart for 10 consecutive weeks (as well as 15 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100) and was streamed more than 180 million times in the United Kingdom.

Hit singles by Ed Sheeran, Cat Burns, Glass Animals, Lost Frequencies & Calum Scott, LF System, Sam Fender made up the rest of the top 10, joined by Kate Bush, whose 1985 track “Running Up That Hill” spent three weeks at number one following its high-profile Stranger Things synch and was streamed 124 million times in the U.K.


Styles also landed the year’s best-selling album with his third studio set Harry’s House. He is the first artist to have both the U.K.’s top single and top album since Lewis Capaldi in 2019. Sheeran’s = (Equals) and Taylor Swift’s Midnights were the year’s second and third best-selling albums, respectively, with Midnights the only album to achieve more than 200,000 chart-eligible sales in a single week. More than 60,000 of those first week sales were vinyl purchases, says BPI.

Last year was also a strong year for independent artists and labels in the U.K. Independent labels grew their share of the U.K. music market for a fifth consecutive year to account for 28.6% of album or their equivalent purchases across streaming and physical, up from 26.9% in 2021. Nine independently released LPs topped the U.K. albums chart in 2022 including records by The 1975, Central Cee, Fontaines D.C. and Wet Leg.

In a statement, BPI chair Yolanda Brown said the success of homegrown talent in 2022 was down to a “compelling mix” of musical creativity and artistry, coupled with the “the ever-expanding opportunities afforded by streaming” and the support of record labels.

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todayJanuary 4, 2023

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