UK record labels association the BPI can report that the UK’s love of music is being deepened by the growth in streaming combined with continuing access to music on physical format.

Data from IFPI’s 2019 “Music Listening Report”1 underlines the fact that, compared with most other countries around the world, we are a nation of music lovers, with 57% of respondents (from the UK) saying they love or are ‘fanatical’ about music. This compares with a global average of 54 per cent, with the UK ranked 4th overall in the world on this key question.

The love of music is especially strong among British 16-24 year olds, with well over two thirds (70%) among the UK respondents saying they love music or are ‘fanatical’ about it (vs 63% global average).

Engagement with audio streaming services is growing across every age group, but is fastest among 25-34 year olds, although strong growth is also evident among older age groups too. By age group, 16-24 year olds are the most engaged (though growth is not as strong).

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, said:

“The way we make and discover music may be going through a radical shift, but the passion we Brits have for the music we love never changes. There are now more ways to access and enjoy the songs and albums we love – whether on radio, our smart phones and speakers and, of course, on turn-tables and CD players. And with all this choice, we are giving more people across all ages the opportunity to engage with the music they love the way they want to.”

Streaming is helping to drive our overall engagement with music

Around 60 per cent of respondents in the UK have used an audio streaming service in the past month according to the IFPI data, up strongly from just over half (52%) in 2018. Younger consumers in the UK (aged 16-24) are particularly engaged, with 88 per cent (up from 84% in 2018) having used an audio streaming service compared with 83 per cent in the rest of the world. Growth is fastest among the 25-34 year olds (from 65% to 75%), although there is good growth among all older streaming groups also. Growth is actually slowest among the 16-24 year olds.

These streaming services are part of young peoples’ daily routines: 69 per cent of 16-24 year olds used one in the past day (compared to a global average of 63%)

But physical music purchasing remains strong among Brits also

Despite the convenience of streaming, UK consumers still like to buy and own some of their music, with streaming and physical enjoying a complementary relationship. The UK ranks higher than the global average for every age group (in the IFPI survey) in terms of CD and LP purchasing. According to the IFPI date nearly a third (30%) of British consumers buy music on an at-least monthly basis (compared to a 26% global average).

Music fans in the UK listen to 17 hours of music a week, with nearly a third of this on radio

How we access and listen to music is also telling, with radio listening still prevalent as a means of access. Four in 10 of us (41%) engage with radio via our smartphones according to the IFPI data. Almost a third (32%) of Britons’ music listening takes place on radio (higher than the global average of 29%).

Smartphones and speakers are growing their share of listening

Smartphones claim the second biggest share of consumer listening at nearly a quarter (23%), although this is lower than the global average (27%) boosted by high smart-phone engagement in countries such as China, India and in Latin America.

The increasing popularity in the UK of smart speakers such as Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ and Google ‘Home’ player means that as a nation we are also over-indexing on smart speaker usage – with 6 per cent of our listening now taking place via this medium – double the 3 per cent global average. In fact, 30 per cent of UK music consumers claim to have used a smart speaker to listen to music in the past three months according to the IFPI survey – compared to just a fifth (20%) of global respondents. This high level of engagement means that the UK ranks just behind the US in its access to music via smart speakers.

We also still love our Hi-Fis and turntables

Nearly a tenth (9%) of our music listening takes place on our Hi-Fis and record turntables, however. This compares with 8 per cent across countries surveyed by the IFPI, and reflects our enduring love of physical formats i.e. vinyl LPs and CD.

We love our pop, rock and indie, but grime is catching

Pop remains the UK’s favourite music genre, with nearly two thirds (64%) of British consumers in the IFPI survey saying that they listen to it (compared to just 60% among global respondents). Rock weighs in at 54.4 per cent among the Brits surveyed (vs 52% globally), while well over a third of us (34%) love our indie/alternative in the UK – double the global average of 18 per cent and the highest proportion of the 20-plus countries surveyed by the IFPI.

Also flying the flag for Britain is grime/garage, with over a tenth (11%) of UK respondents in the survey saying they had listened to it, compared to just 3 per cent globally – underlining how grime is a particularly British cultural phenomenon.

In fact the UK over-indexed on many of the genres: soul/blues was only bigger in South Africa and New Zealand; we are joint top with Australia on punk; and, fascinatingly, only South Africa is bigger than the UK when it comes to Afrobeats.