The highs and lows of the music economy

Recently, new stats discovered that the UK music industry is on an all time high - reportedly now worth £3.5 billion, thanks to legal downloading and digital music taking off. But it's not always been this easy! 

UK Music have revealed via new figures that the music industry is worth £3.5 billion, as of 2012.

UK music said of the stats: "Music is one of the most investment-intensive industries in the economy."

"Record labels were integral to the development of the music industry and remain fundamental to the industry today – not least as they remain the largest investors in music talent – investing up to 20% of revenue in artists and repertoire."

For the UK this is a big deal for both labels and streaming sites' revenue such as Spotify. As such, the UK saw a rise in sales of around - faint! - £72 million. 

The report continued that this progression for artists would give UK governments more funding incentives, saying: 

“Our music might be fun , but it's also a formidable asset to the UK. The Government has said it wants to support the creative industries but until now it's not had the precise data to hand. It does now."

The Government has said it wants to support the creative industries but until now it's not had the precise data to hand. It does now.

The big hitters of 2012 were Emeli Sandé, Ed Sheeran and Adele, who has also just bagged the biggest selling album on Amazon of all time. 

Image from One Direction's official Facebook

Another report surfaced this week that former UK Prime Minister John Major has said that bands like One Direction have 'raised UK diplomacy'. The cultural impact of the UK's music and TV scene has re-enforced the same sort of imagery that the The Beatles did for us in the 60s, and the Spice Girls did in the 90s.

"You have Adele, One Direction, Susan Boyle. Wherever you go, they're household names and they have an implication for perception and thus soft power.

Because people see and think about Britain, because of these elements of soft power, and because of our history, there is...a greater tendency to trust the British in diplomacy".

Back in the day

As with anything, the UK music industry has been as up and down as your favourite song's frequency wave, right from its beginnings in the 1800s. 

With every new medium of vinyl, tapes and CDS, has the industry dipped and dived to accomodate new ways to take in music. 


The dawning age of radio 

Many people think that Spotify's impact of free streaming was the first time the concept of buying records was ruptured. However, it actually all began with the invention of commercial radio.

Nikola Tesla's little box of soundwaves didn't seem like it could do much harm at all when they started being sold in 1920. However, once commercial radio and pirate radio stations began to formulate, seeping out pop music for free, the record business took a serious kick. 

By the mid-20s, record sales had dramatically plummeted by half - a combination of The Great Depression and people simply stopping buying records. In the US, record sales fell from $75 million in 1929 to $26 million in 1938. It would take a while until the two mediums would start working harmoniously with each other.

Pirate radio than began eating away at the success of regular programming, and the dispute between marketing sales helped shape commercial radio as we know it today, with DJs and popular music being played on a regular basis. 

Here comes the CD!

But before long, radio advertising put people back into actually purchasing 'physical media', and when the impact of the compact disc came along, so did 'mobile listening' with walkmens and cars. The accessibility of the CD above tapes and vinyls before it meant that once again, record sales were booming. 

Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" in 1985 is reported to be the first big success seller that paved the way for more.

However, the impact of impending technology expansions would soon lead to the CD turning evil... 

Digital Downloads

CD sales began to fire up the UK music charts. In 2004, the British Phonographic Industry reported album sales were on an all-time high, with 237 million in the space of the year. 

However, a new medium of music was lurking around the corner called P2P music streaming - file sharing on the internet, meaning people could burn their own CDs for free. 

Step forward - Napster - which began gaining momentum in the early 2000s.

The Recording Industry Association of America released a report showing that the free service had in fact culled sales by 39% in the US, revealing: "Napster hurt sales".

Although many dispute whether it was Napster that did this, or the growing disinterest in buying records from the public. 

Nonetheless, the vulnerability of being able to download copyright content on the CD, surged the rise in digital music. 

The rise of digital music 

And, as you may know, as you read this article with your MP3 player of choice jamming away merrily, the rest is history. In 2013, new reports revealed that the format of the CD was in "terminal decline". However, with the rise of legal downloading networks such as Spotify, it has also meant the fall of piracy is in decline too.

Although dispute still lies between Spotify and the artist, the UK Download Chart has displayed a new 'healthiness' in the UK music industry, with music more accessible these days than ever. With a bit of help from One Direction, we'd wager.

What do you think lies in the future for our music industry? 

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