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Streaming's Share of UK Music Business Still Rising

Streams boost combined album sales by 11.6% in H1 2017

July 18, 2017 | Media & Entertainment

Music streaming continues to drive the UK music market, with a more than 50% jump in “streaming equivalent album sales” largely responsible for a double-digit increase in combined digital and physical album sales in 2017’s first half.

According to record industry trade group BPI (The British Recorded Music Industry) and its sales tracking arm, the Official Charts Company, album equivalent sales (AES) of all formats rose 11.6% year over year in the first six months of 2017 to nearly 63.9 million.

Within that figure, streaming equivalent album sales—a measure that attempts to translate the combined streaming of songs off an individual album into a physical sale of a single album for tracking purposes—saw the biggest increase, up 53.2% vs. H1 2016, as audio streams by UK listeners swelled to almost 31.85 billion for the period.

Streaming’s influence on UK album sales in H1 was a continuation of 2016’s story, when streaming equivalent album sales rose 67.5% over 2015.

It wasn’t all good news for digital music, however.

Paid downloads continued to drop, with digital album sales falling by 24.1%. In addition, “track equivalent album sales,” reflecting the translation of a certain number of purchases of individual tracks off an album into the sale of a copy of that album, dropped 23.5% year over year.

Sales of physical formats were mixed compared with 2016’s first half. CD album sales fell 6.4%. But sales of vinyl albums rose 32.2%, and sales of vinyl singles jumped 60.2%—albeit from relatively low levels—due largely to reissues of classic records and limited-edition releases by new artists, according to the Official Charts Company.

The UK's figures are roughly in line with the US, where physical and digital album sales (excluding streaming) fell 18.3% in 2017's first half, according to a Nielsen. But boosted by a 36.4% increase in streams, overall album sales increased 8.1% for the period.

—Cliff Annicelli

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