The UK recorded music market increased again in 2022 - the eighth consecutive year of growth.
According to figures released by the BPI, UK recorded music consumption (AES) was up by 4.3% year-on-year to 166.1 million albums (or their equivalent) in 2022.
Annual audio streaming numbers broke through 150 billion - the total of 159.3bn is more than double the amount five years ago. Annual growth of 8.2% for Streaming Equivalent Albums (SEA) last year was ahead of the increase of 5.7% for 2021. Overall, Streaming Equivalent Albums made up a record 86.1% of the market.
However, physical music sales were down by 13.1% - a bigger drop than in 2021 (5%). A year ago, there were hopes that physical decline was tailing off.
UK acts’ singles clean sweep
Streaming has powered UK artists to a historic result on the year’s Top 10 singles. Based on combined streaming and sales activity, all of the year’s overall Top 10 were by, or featured, domestic artists – the first time this has happened since the music industry began publishing year-end sales charts more than 50 years ago. This clean sweep was led by Harry Styles’ As It Was (1,573,672) and also included multiple hits by Ed Sheeran, as well as singles by Glass Animals, Kate Bush, LF System and Sam Fender.
Cat Burns (pictured) finished at No.4 overall with Go (1, 109,277 sales in 2022), which was the year’s biggest debut hit. It was first released in July 2020 and peaked at No.2 in June last year.
UK artists were also behind 15 of the year’s Top 20 singles and 58% of the year-end Top 100. In 2008, the year before Spotify launched in the UK, homegrown artists claimed four of the year’s Top 10 singles, seven of the Top 20 and just over 40% of the Top 100.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: "This clean sweep of the UK singles chart by British artists demonstrates the depth of creative talent we have. Everyone on the list has the ability to capture people’s imagination and I would like to congratulate each of them on the achievement. It is amazing to see the breadth of talent from young artists like Ed Sheeran to music legend Kate Bush, showcasing the very best of British. This is fantastic news to kick off the new year and we will carry on backing our artists and musicians so they can continue this success through 2023 and beyond."
UK artists spent more weeks at No.1 than in any previous year this century. Artists from the UK ruled for 36 weeks across the year, led by As It Was (10 weeks at No.1), LF System’s Afraid To Feel (eight weeks at No. 1), Dave’s Starlight (four weeks at No.1), Sam Smith’s Unholy (with German artist Kim Petras) (four weeks at No.1), and Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill (three weeks at No.1).
This clean sweep of the UK singles chart by British artists demonstrates the depth of creative talent we have
More than three billion audio streams were generated on average every week in 2022, compared to around 1.3 billion each week five years earlier. It now takes, on average, 1.3 million audio streams to break into the Top 40 and a combined seven million audio and video streams to land a UK No.1 single.
YolanDa Brown, BPI chair, said: “It’s wonderful to see so many exciting new artists breaking through to thrive alongside more established UK artists – leading the next wave of British talent to global success thanks to the compelling mix of their creativity and artistry, the ever expanding opportunities afforded by streaming and the support of their record labels. I congratulate British artists and their teams on another year of brilliant success.”
Harry Styles was also behind 2022’s top album with Harry’s House (460,432 sales), making him the first artist since Lewis Capaldi in 2019 to have the year’s top single and album. Harry’s House led Ed Sheeran’s =, which ranked as the No.2 album for a second consecutive year, while Taylor Swift’s Midnights was the year’s third biggest album. Midnights was the only album in 2022 to achieve more than 200,000 chart-eligible sales in a single week.
UK artists have now provided the year’s top album in 21 of the 23 years this century.
Vinyl edges up as CD struggles
There were 11.6 million CDs and 5.5 million vinyl LPs purchased across the year, as well as 195,000 cassettes and 3.7 million album downloads. CD sales slumped by 19.3% and the gap is narrowing between the format and vinyl (the latter is now well ahead in terms of revenue, with the final figures due later this year).
Vinyl LPs represented 31.7% of all physical purchases as sales grew for a 15th consecutive year and reached their highest level in over 30 years (stretching back to 1990 when …But Seriously by Phil Collins was the year’s biggest-selling studio album). But Q4 did not deliver a consistent weekly performance for vinyl, and the format only managed a 2.9% year-on-year increase in units compared to 10.6% in the prior year.
Eight of the year’s Top 10 titles were released in 2022, led by Taylor Swift’s Midnights, Harry’s House by Harry Styles and Arctic Monkeys’ The Car, which across the year achieved the three highest one-week sales for vinyl LPs this century. The vinyl Top 10 of the year also included 2022 albums by Liam Gallagher, The 1975, Wet Leg and Muse (Will Of The People).
In 2017, just three of the year’s 10 biggest vinyl LPs were released in that year with the top sellers dominated by catalogue titles by artists including The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
Sales of cassettes, while still a very small part of the market overall, continued to grow in 2022, up 5.2% year-on-year to 195,000 units. The year’s top sellers included Dance Fever by Florence + The Machine, Muse’s Will Of The People and 23 by Central Cee.
Digital download album sales further declined, down 18.9% year-on-year to 3.7 million units.
In a further format shift, Muse became the first act to top the chart with an album released as an NFT. Will Of The People was released in a limited-edition NFT “digital pressing” in addition to CD, digital, vinyl, cassette and on streaming services.
Physical formats again dominated the top of the albums chart, accounting for a majority of chart-eligible sales of the No.1 title in most weeks (38) in 2022, while in 33 weeks physical comprised more than 70% of chart-eligible sales of the week’s top album.
Drew Hill, MD, Proper Music Group/VP Distribution, Utopia Music, said: "It's fantastic to see another year where physical sales are driving albums to the top of the Official Charts. With 86% of 2022's No.1 records boasting a majority in physical sales, in their first week at the top, it continues to prove that music fans from across all ages and genres are continuing to desire their favourite music in a tangible form; as something to be cherished and collected as well as played on repeat."
Catalogue connects with new fans
Driven by streaming, a diverse range of talent featured among the year’s biggest hits. This included global superstars Adele, Dua Lipa, Elton John and Sam Smith; major pop artists such as George Ezra, Lewis Capaldi, Mimi Webb and Tom Odell; hip-hop/rap acts including A1xJ1, Aitch, ArrDee, Dave, D-Block Europe, SwitchOTR and Tion Wayne; dance talent including Bad Boy Chiller Crew, Becky Hill, Bru-C, Eliza Rose, Jax Jones and Nathan Dawe; and rock bands and artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay, Sam Ryder and Tom Grennan.
Leon Neville, BPI’s director of research & insight, said: “At a time when streaming has created unprecedented competition coming from every corner of the globe, it is astonishing that in 2022 British artists were involved in all of the top 10 calendar year’s biggest hits in the UK. This outstanding achievement is a testament to the rich music talent that continues to emerge from across the UK’s nations and regions, fuelled by the passion, investment and skills of UK record labels.
“With streaming having led the market to an eighth consecutive annual rise in UK music consumption, this platform is creating new and increased opportunities for labels to connect many thousands of artists with expanding fanbases, while enabling even more of them to succeed.”
Kate Bush is placed among an end-of-year singles Top 10 for the first time with Running Up That Hill at No.6 overall, as a result of it being heavily featured in the fourth season of the Netflix series Stranger Things. First released in 1985, when it peaked at No.3, the track topped the singles chart for three weeks in 2022 and was streamed 124 million times in total last year.
Running Up That Hill is joined among the Top 40 singles of the year by Tom Odell’s debut single Another Love which, a decade after first being released, returned to the Top 20 after building a new audience via Tik Tok. Both tracks highlight how streaming, combined with record label support, is generating new audiences and revenue for catalogue tracks.
Catalogue dominated the albums Top 10 as classic repertoire and releases older than 18 months made a streaming impact. As well as Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, there were collections from The Weeknd, Eminem, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Little Mix and ABBA in the year's overall Top 10. There's an increase compared to 2021, when half of the Top 10 albums were catalogue titles.
Independent sector soars
Independent record labels’ share of the UK recorded music market increased for a fifth consecutive year in 2022 to 28.6% (AES). This was up from 26.9% in 2021, while the independent share has grown by nearly a third since 2017 when it stood at 22.1%. Nine independently released LPs topped the albums chart during the year by 5 Seconds of Summer, The 1975, Central Cee, Don Broco, Fontaines DC, Louis Tomlinson, Stereophonics, Wet Leg and The Wombats, while over 60 indie albums reached the Top 10.
Among the most noteworthy indie releases of 2022 was Wet Leg’s self-titled album (fast approaching gold status). It was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize last summer and has since been nominated at the Grammys in the US, where the group are in the running for Best New Act.
Although it did not reach No.1, Arctic Monkeys’ seventh studio set The Car achieved nearly 120,000 chart-eligible sales in its first week of release in October and became 2022’s biggest new independent album. It was joined in the year’s overall Top 20 by the group’s 2013 release AM.