January 13, 2020
According to the figures, the equivalent of 154 million albums were either streamed, purchased on physical formats or downloaded in 2019, up by 7.5% in volume on the total recorded in 2018. This is the highest amount since 2006, when the figure stood at 161.4 million albums.
The continued growth in streaming, which rose by 26% in the year, underpinned this rise in consumption. Streaming now accounts for three quarters (74.4%) of Album Equivalent Sales (AES), the metric used by the industry to collectively measure music streaming and purchasing. December saw the highest weekly total of streams ever recorded, at 2.7 billion, and the 2019 total of 114 billion plays on audio streaming services marks the first time the 100 billion landmark has been surpassed in a single year.
Demand for albums on vinyl LP and cassette formats also continues to grow, according to the figures. BPI says that the growth underlines the continuing appeal of analogue alongside streaming and CD, and shows that there is still a strong core of fans and music enthusiasts who also value the opportunity to acquire, own or gift recorded music on physical format.
Vinyl LP sales rose for a twelfth consecutive year and now account for one in every eight albums bought, with 4.3 million purchased in 2019, an increase of 4.1% on the previous year and a rise of over 2,000% on the format’s low point in 2007.
Cassette sales are also now enjoying a period of sustained growth, although it should be noted that they still only account for just a fraction (0.1%) of overall recorded music consumption. That said, demand has increased for seven consecutive years, and the 2019 sales tally of 80,404 purchases is the biggest annual total recorded in 15 years (99,636 were sold in 2004).
While the number of CD and digital albums bought fell by just over a quarter in line with long-term trends (by 26.5% and 28.2% respectively), the formats continue to play an important role in shaping Official Albums Chart success. Physical remains the “kingmaker for number one albums”. In the majority of weeks (29) in 2019, physical accounted for over half (50% +) of chart-eligible sales of the Official Charts Number One artist album. For the last quarter of 2019, physical reigned strong with 13 consecutive weeks where physical counted for the majority of chart-eligible sales, accounting for more than 75% in 12 of those weeks.
Music enthusiasts are also now investing in premium-quality collections and box sets. While they may be buying fewer CDs as a whole, they are tending to spend more on enhanced versions of recordings featuring premium and collectible packaging.
The figures also show that although the compilations market continues to be impacted by the popularity of streaming playlists, the NOW brand continues to thrive. In 2019 it accounted for over 1.25 million CD sales and over a third of all full price compilations sales, while NOW’s digital platform saw over 1 billion streams. To read BPI’s summary in full, click here.