The BPI’s annual yearbook All About the Music is published today and gives a detailed insight into the year in UK recorded music in 2018 through facts, figures and analysis.

Compiled by Rob Crutchley and edited by Chris Green, and featuring an introduction by BPI CEO Geoff Taylor, this authorative BPI industry book fully evaluates music consumption and trends, with chapters covering sales, market breakdowns, consumer behaviour, retailing and how British music is performing in the world market, along with many other insights.

“ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC 2019” is available free to all BPI members and regular media contacts, or it can be purchased from the BPI’s website:

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said:
“In an age where entertainment consumption is increasingly fragmented, and with ever-fiercer competition in the attention economy, music demonstrates time and again that it has the power and appeal to cut through and engage people’s passions.

“Streaming offers more dazzling choice of music than ever for audiences, but every now and then a body of work will strongly resonate with fans. Adele’s 25 and Ed Sheeran’s Divide are two recent examples – albums that captured the public’s imagination, combining relatability with classic song craft. In 2018 another set of songs can be added to that pantheon – the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman. Its dominance of the UK charts was remarkable: 24 (non-consecutive) weeks at number one, eight tracks from it featuring in the year-end top 100 singles chart and over 1.6m copies sold. Both The Greatest Showman and A Star Is Born showed that music and film can combine to powerful effect, but the success of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Bohemian Rhapsody reminds us that older songs too can have a broad, pan-generational appeal.

“Some commentators express concern for classic music in the age of streaming, but what 2018 has perhaps taught us is that context is key in its discovery – create imaginative situations in which to experience great music, and people will respond. This also applies to contemporary musicians: from Marshmello playing a set in Fortnite to the new wave of podcasts that lend fresh perspectives to both songs and artists, performers are finding different ways to connect with new audiences.”

“The recorded music industry in the UK is showing consistent growth, driven by investment in new talent, innovative global marketing, and offering music fans outstanding choice, convenience and value. The outlook for the future remains positive, but there is still a long way to go to recapture lost ground. Long-term growth depends on robust Government action to tackle the Value Gap, promote investment, ensure online platforms take responsible action to reduce infringement, and secure the future talent pipeline by giving state school pupils the opportunity to discover and develop their talent.”


As a key take out, here we highlight what UK consumers streamed in 2018 - and in the process underscore the public’s passion for new music as well as its enduring love affair with classic catalogue.

• Bohemian Rhapsody becomes the most popular track from 1970s; The Killers' Mr Brightside remains the biggest track released in the noughties
• Tracks released before 2017 accounted for over half of all streams in 2018
• More than 500 tracks from this pre-2017 period were streamed over 10m times
• Mariah Carey ‘All I Want for Christmas’ in the top 100 streamed tracks of 2018

While streaming data gives us a valuable verdict on which freshly-released tracks are the most popular, it also delivers important insight into what older music is currently resonating with the UK audience. This report attempts to ascertain how popular these older tracks are not only in relation to new music, but also what micro-trends are developing. The revival of interest in these catalogue tracks and albums reveals much not only what standing these classics have in our overall listening but also how we are (re)discovering and uncovering new gems from our rich musical heritage. Streaming continues to grow in popularity.

In 2018 over 90 billion plays took place on audio streaming services, an increase of 33.5% on the 2017 total, and we are now regularly seeing 2 billion streams per week occur. BPI’s 2018 analysis looked at the 15,000 most-played tracks of the year and assigned a ‘year of release’ to each, corresponding to the first day it was made publicly available.

Newer music dominates the top of the year-end chart…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, tracks that were released in 2018 dominate the upper echelons of the annual chart. Tracks by Drake (God's Plan), Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa (One Kiss, right) and George Ezra (Shotgun) comprise the top three, with over 412m plays between them. Tracks originally released in 2017 also occupy quite a few of the high positions, such as those from The Greatest Showman (the soundtrack of which was made available in December 2017), Ed Sheeran's Divide and Dua Lipa's self-titled debut album. Tracks released in 2018 collectively accounted for 23% of all plays, with those first released in the year before comprising 20%.

… But catalogue tracks claim majority share of plays
Definitions of 'catalogue' vary, but for the purpose of our analysis we have defined it as any track released in or before 2016. Cumulatively, these songs were responsible for well over half (57%) of plays on audio streaming services in 2018. Streaming is undoubtedly changing the landscape of music discovery. While new music can now potentially be found, heard, liked and 'saved' instantaneously, equally tracks can take much longer to break and momentum can take a while to build. Campaigns are being built over a significantly longer period than before and this steadier growth means that slightly older tracks now carry a greater weight of importance in analyses such as these than they might have done before. Broadly the pattern is the same, however - collectively, tracks from the most recent years account for the greater share of plays.

There are some deviations from this rule, however. Tracks from 2011 (including big hits by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Adele), for instance, were played more times than tracks from 2012. Similarly, of all the years in the noughties it was 2006 tracks (including The
Kooks' Naive - the most-played track from that year - and Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars) that accumulated the greatest play count.

Most popular tracks by decade

Tracks from between 2010 and 2016 accounted for almost half (45.8%) of catalogue plays, with two appearing in the top 100. Bruno Mars' Finesse was the highest-placed catalogue track, at number 61 - originally released in November 2016, a remix featuring Cardi B boosted its popularity. Post Malone's I Fall Apart (also from 2016) was the second most-played catalogue track, and was placed at number 64.

The Killers' Mr Brightside has become something of a phenomenon. Released in 2003, it was again the most-played track from the 2000s and the third most-streamed catalogue song in 2018. It still frequently makes the top 100 on the weekly Official Singles Chart and was again placed within the top 100 (at number 75) of the 2018 year-end streaming chart. Several songs from the 2000s were played over 20m times in 2018, including tracks by Jason Mraz, The White Stripes, Eminem and Beyoncé.

In a decade famous for Britpop and The Spice Girls it was a Christmas tune that was the most popular. Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You was the both the most-played of the 1990s and the most-streamed Christmas track from any era (see table below for top 10 Christmas tracks). Like Mr Brightside it too made the top 100 of the 2018 chart (at number 99) and in the final week of the year it was the most-played track in the UK. Two tracks by Oasis (Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger) were the next most-popular from the decade, with hits by TLC, Goo Goo Dolls and Nirvana also among the most played.

Songs released in 1984 accounted for the biggest share of that decade's plays and one of those was the most popular track of that entire period: Wham!'s Last Christmas. That year also saw big releases from Band Aid and A-ha. Hits from Fleetwood Mac (Everywhere, 1987), Whitney Houston (I Wanna Dance With Somebody, 1987) and Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), 1983) all charted within the year-end top 300.

Whereas Earth Wind & Fire's September was the most-played track from the 1970s in 2017, in 2018 the honour fell to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, from 1975. ELO's Mr Blue Sky (1977) was second, with another Queen track (Don't Stop Me Now) in third. Songs from 1977 accumulated the greatest play count with tracks from Fleetwood Mac (who released their Rumours album in February of that year), The Eagles (Hotel California, 1976) and Stevie Wonder (Superstition, 1972) ranked highly.

The 1960s accounted for only 4.1% of all catalogue plays, but 13 tracks were played over 10m times, including Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl (1967), Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline (1969) and Jimi Hendrix's All Along The Watchtower (1968). Only one was played over 20m times, however - The Jackson 5's I Want You Back, which as in 2017 was the most-played song from the sixties.

What makes catalogue popular?
Naturally there's no fool proof way to propel catalogue tracks to success, but some patterns do emerge from the analysis. Aside from the general comfort of nostalgia, perhaps the most obvious reason behind some tracks' success is their association with Christmas.

Our analysis estimates there to be almost 150 Christmas-themed (or associated) catalogue tracks among the 15,000 most-played songs of the year, While their collective play count only amounts to around 3% of the total, 25 were played over 10m times, including tracks by Elton John, Chris Rea and Slade.

A connection with film & TV is often a contributor to interest in a song increasing. The most obvious example of 2018 is the success of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody - not only did the title track become the most-played song from the 1970s but nine of their songs charted in the streaming top 1,000 at year-end, compared to just four in 2017. The Spinners’ Rubberband Man (used in the film Avengers: Infinity War) enjoyed a boost in plays as did Pat Benatar’s We Belong (which featured in Deadpool 2).

Fat Les’s Vindaloo, New Order’s World In Motion and Baddiel & Skinner’s Three Lions all saw big spikes in popularity around the time of the World Cup (the latter rising to number one on the weekly singles chart), while John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads achieved greater recognition through its usage in the game Fallout 76. Totos Africa was already one of the bigger catalogue tracks but it moved into the overall top 150 in 2018 after a year where it was shared intensively online and was also the subject of a social media campaign to persuade the band Weezer to cover it (which they duly did).