Nearly two-thirds of the past year’s most successful UK albums came from domestic artists who either grew up or formed their bands in the nations and regions outside of London, with the North West leading the way1, according to a new report from the BPI, the representative voice for independent and major record labels.
Artists in the nations and regions outside London made up 62% of the chart overall, according to the Official Charts Company data used for the report, underlining just how vibrant music is nationwide. The results highlight the extent to which diverse new talent, with record label backing, is emerging and succeeding across all parts of the UK, including the North and North East. If the largely London/cities based genre of rap & grime is removed, the contribution by artists from the rest of the UK is even more pronounced, with the share of music they generate rising to 74%. Nearly four-fifths of rock albums on the chart (79%) were by artists not from London.
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “The UK has long been recognised as one of the world’s leading music cultures, with a track record of producing globally successful superstars. This new BPI analysis highlights that artistic talent continues to be nurtured and developed across all parts of the UK, and it’s this rich diversity both musically and geographically, supported by record labels, that is the key to our global music status and should be protected and enhanced.”
North West leads the way
Together, Liverpool and Manchester accounted for 17 of the top 300 albums by UK artists in the last 12 months. Taking the North West as a whole, there are 29 albums by artists from this region on the top 300 chart. Glasgow, Birmingham and Brighton also featured as major music locations in the BPI survey, with Bristol, the Yorkshire cities of Sheffield and Leeds, Nottingham and Wigan completing the Top 10.
Liverpool’s success reflects a dance music culture symbolised by legendary super-club Cream, with its credentials also highlighted by local DJ and production duo CamelPhat. Rock plays a big part in the North West city’s showing, including guitar band The Wombats who met while attending LIPA, the higher education institution co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney who has two albums on the chart.
Manchester’s biggest artists over the past 12 months are equally eclectic and include grime star Bugzy Malone. His most recent studio set The Resurrection is one of three releases by the rapper to appear among the past year’s Top 300 UK albums. A diverse mix of other Mancunian talent also makes the cut, including veteran artists Johnny Marr and James as well as electronic music producer Floating Points. The city’s impact is felt even more when broadened to take in the whole of Greater Manchester, boosted last year by Wigan rock band The Lathums.
UK’s leading 10 music locations in nations & regions outside London (source: BPI based on Official Charts data)
All parts of the UK are contributing to its music success at home and around the world.
Glasgow owes its ranking in the survey to the recent success of artists such as Texas and Chvrches. The city’s record as a breeding ground for bands is highlighted by new hit albums from Del Amitri, Franz Ferdinand, Teenage Fanclub and Mogwai, who achieved their first UK No. 1 last year with As The Love Continues.
Birmingham’s fourth-place finish is made up of artists drawn from across the decades. Forty years after their first hit, Duran Duran reached No. 3 in 2021 with their 15th album Future Past, while Mvula’s LP Pink Noise was Mercury Prize shortlisted and won Best Album at this year’s Ivor Novello Awards.
Brighton completes the top five music locations. Its diverse successes over the last year include rapper ArrDee, whose debut mixtape Pier Pressure reached No. 2 on the Official Albums Chart, indie rock band Lovejoy and BRITS-winning and Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter Celeste, who grew up in the city and whose first studio set Not Your Muse debuted at No. 1 in early 2021. The UK’s Top 10 music locations also include Bristol, led by the rock band IDLES whose 2021 album Crawler became the group’s third Top 10 hit.
Leeds’ ranking is led by Yard Act who reached No. 2 with their debut LP The Overload, while Sheffield’s successes include rockers Bring Me The Horizon’s Post Human: Survival Horror and singer-songwriter Self Esteem’s Prioritise Pleasure. The Yorkshire city has a rich heritage that also encompasses Arctic Monkeys, Human League and Def Leppard. Doncaster provides pop-punk singer-songwriter Yungblud and indie band The Reytons.
West Yorkshire’s most successful artists of the past year include bass collective Bad Boy Chiller Crew from Bradford and Leeds alternative rock group Alt-J who reached No. 3 in February with The Dream. Thanks to the likes of indie pop band London Grammar and singer-songwriter Jake Bugg, Nottingham also finishes as one of the UK’s 10 biggest music cities, joining Wigan whose successes include The Lathums.
Outside the Top 10 locations, many other places can celebrate homegrown artist album successes over the past year, including Bath (Tears For Fears), Belfast (Van Morrison), Brynmawr (Marina), Cambridge (Black Country, New Road), Framlingham (Ed Sheeran), Grantham (Holly Humberstone), Harrogate (Years & Years), Isle of Wight (Wet Leg), Kilmarnock (Biffy Clyro), Leicester (Easy Life), North Shields (Sam Fender), Oxford (Glass Animals), Penboyr (Cate Le Bon), Watford (KSI), Whitburn (The Snuts) and Worthing (Royal Blood).
Gauged over a longer period the impact of artists from Cardiff and other locations in Wales, such as Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics, would be telling, as it would from Belfast (the third UK city attributed with UNESCO City of Music status) and Northern Ireland through acts such as Snow Patrol and rising star Hannah Peel.
Lambeth’s booming hip-hop/rap scene makes it London’s leading music borough.
In London, Lambeth finishes as the city’s top borough thanks to a burgeoning hip-hop/rap scene that includes BRITs and Mercury Prize winner Dave. The Brixton-born, Streatham-raised rapper had one of the biggest new albums of the past year with We’re All Alone In This Together. Lambeth’s other successes include K-Trap, Demo and Krept & Konan, alongside pop artists such as Jessie Ware and Joy Crookes. While Haringey in second place can also boast a number of recent hip-hop successes such as Abra Cadabra, Headie One and Shy FX, undoubtedly its biggest export is Adele who hails from Tottenham, and whose 30 is the top UK album of the past year. Another hotbed of hip-hop/rap talent is Hackney, which finishes as the third biggest borough for music in the capital with artists including NSG, Unknown T and Dutchavelli.
Fourth-placed Hammersmith & Fulham is led by Shepherd’s Bush rapper Central Cee, whose self-released mixtape 23 reached No. 1 in February. The same borough is also home to Arlo Parks, who last year won the Mercury Prize with her debut LP Collapsed In Sunbeams. South of the river, Lewisham is listed in part due to collective D-Block Europe, whose LP The Blue Print: Us vs. Them reached No. 2 on the Official Albums Chart.
Other top boroughs are Kensington & Chelsea thanks to AJ Tracey, Digga D and the alt. band Dry Cleaning, and Newham, owing to a thriving hip-hop scene that includes Ghetts, Morrisson and Yxng Bane. Camden claims a Top 10 place by virtue of Coldplay, who formed at UCL and reached No. 1 last autumn with Music of the Spheres. There are also places for Westminster, led by singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti and rapper Fredo, and Islington whose successes include rapper/singer Little Simz and rockers Wolf Alice.
London’s leading 10 boroughs for music (source: BPI based on Official Charts data)
4. Hammersmith & Fulham
5. Kensington & Chelsea