BPI's Geoff Taylor on the 'heroic effort' of the physical music sector

BPI's Geoff Taylor on the 'heroic effort' of the physical music sector

Amid the disruption from Covid-19, the UK recorded music industry is still growing.

As revealed in the latest issue of Music Week and our analysis of the Official Charts Company data, the rate of overall market growth slowed during Q2 but remained steady.

Geoff Taylor, BPI and BRIT Awards chief executive, has told Music Week that the increasing dominance of streaming protected the industry. 

The AES figure (Album Equivalent Sales) for the first half of 2020 was 73.3 million, a year-on-year increase of 6.8%. Even for the Q2 period when the lockdown set in, AES still increased by 5.8% year-on-year.

“The fact that streaming accounts for the majority of our consumption has obviously insulated us to some degree,” said Taylor.

Lewis Capaldi led the way in the first half of the year as his debut Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent continued to sell. He was followed by 2019 releases from Stormzy, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran, as this year’s release schedule was hit by the pandemic. 

Physical music has now bounced back to above 20% of the share of album sales. But Taylor acknowledged it had been tough during recent months.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the impact that there has been on physical,” he said. “Initially, there was a more than 50% drop in CD sales. LP has performed pretty well, there's been some fantastic work done by our retailers converting to online sales and initiatives like the Love Record Stores campaign from PIAS.

“So there's been some great work going on that's helped to buoy the physical market. I think distributors like Proper have done a brilliant job. There has been a heroic effort, really, in the physical market to try and recover as much as could be recovered. I think that's been very impressive, but nonetheless it has taken a hit over this quarter. We have seen an impact on both retailers and labels.”

There has been a heroic effort in the physical market

Geoff Taylor

The physical share of albums was just 9.2% in Q2. The decline was down to falling CD sales as supermarkets and Amazon prioritised other products. The closure of HMV also hit CD sales. 

But vinyl has remained resilient, with recent albums by Lady Gaga, Liam Gallagher and The Lathums performing well on the format.

During Q2, CD sales were down by 50.7% year-on-year and LP sales were down by 20.4%. Cassettes increased by 114.7%, admittedly from a low base (total Q2 sales were still under 50,000).

For the half-year, which includes three months of trading not affected by the pandemic, physical albums were down 34.3% compared to the first six months of 2019.

While CDs were down by 38.9% (a total of 6.5 million units) to the end of June, LP’s sales decrease was slower at 11.6% (a total of 1.7m copies). Cassettes increased by 102.6% year-on-year (65,000 units).

Physical albums also still play a significant role in No.1 chart success, including the recent appearance at the summit by Gerry Cinnamon

“It’s remarkable really, as I say boosted by some great marketing efforts,” said Taylor. “I think it is encouraging to see vinyl continue to grow and it also is interesting to look at cassette, which obviously is also seeing some great figures this year and continuing to grow. So both of them together just show how much fans value collectability, and something that you can kind of treasure as an artefact, as well as listening to the music.”

To read the full Q2 analysis, subscribers can click here.

* To make sure you can access Music Week wherever you are, subscribe to our digital issue by clicking here.

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