UK Music and Association of Independent Festival reports reveal mixed fortunes for British musicians


The Blinders at Kendal Calling 2018

Two major reports might well claim the UK music industry to be in rude health, but Getintothis’ Luke Halls finds not all is at it seems.

The UK music industry grew by 2% in 2017, contributing a record £4.5 billion to the UK’s economy, finds campaigning and lobbying group UK Music in its Measuring Music 2018 report.

The annual report, published on 1 November, analyses the varying economic shifts in the UK’s music business. Its many facets are considered, ranging from income taken by British festivals, to contributions by particularly successful acts and the monetary growth of the recorded music sector.

UK music appears to be having a particularly promising period, with all of its divisions marking a positive increase throughout 2017. The report exemplifies the success stories of the year, which include a 9% rise in recorded music to £700 million; a 7% rise in music publishing to £505 million; and Ed Sheeran’s third album ÷ (Divide) being the best-selling record of the year internationally.

“These are exciting times with our contribution to the economy at a record high,” states former British Labour politician and UK Music CEO Michael Dugher.Exports are rising significantly, and growth in the creative industries overall is twice as fast as the rest of the economy.”

The report’s findings also coincide with new figures revealed by the Association of Independent Festivals and Complete Music Update, which reveal that independent festivals in the UK contributed an estimated £1 billion to the economy between 2014 and 2017.

In 2017 alone, the 65 member festivals of the AIF (which include Kendal CallingDot to Dot, End of the Road, SWN, Festival No. 6 and Liverpool’s Folk on the Dock) contributed £386 million, with a combined audience of 800,000 spending nearly 10% of the total figure at on-site businesses at each festival.

Spotify favourite Benjamin Francis Leftwich to play Leaf

Of particular note is that between 2009 and 2017, the average spend of the average ticket-holder has increased from £364.17 to £483.14 – which AIF boss Paul Reed sees as especially encouraging.

That AIF member festivals have contributed another £1 billion to the UK economy – and at a much faster rate than the last billion – shows just how healthy the independent festival market is right now and how quickly it is growing.”

Amidst all-around good news, UK Music advises caution to musicians keen to enter the music industry full-time. Statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics revealed that the average wage in the UK in 2017 was £29,002 per annum, whilst music creators earned proportionally less at an average of £20,504.

UK Music goes on to highlight further factors affecting the future infrastructure of the industry, such as a decline in school students studying music at GCSE and A Level. It also acknowledges the wealth of available music online, and how getting noticed in the era of Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube and their contemporaries is becoming ever more difficult.

There are challenges,” states UK Music chairman Andy Heath. “It is difficult in the digital age to break new talent because of the sheer quantity of music out there in a crowded marketplace. In the years ahead, it will be a test to help audiences and consumers differentiate and find the music gems that make our industry so unique.”

UK Music plans to reveal more in-depth findings in its 2019 report, which will be published next year.

With recent and hugely important changes stirring in the industry, such as Spotify allowing artists to upload directly to the platform (and thus skip out the middle man), the report is sure to raise further questions as to the state of British music, and suggest what its ever-developing future trajectory looks like.