The recently released Adding Up The UK Music Industry report for 2010, compiled by PRS for Music, makes grim reading.
As the economic position worsens for many people, it seems that buying music and going to gigs are both seen as expendable extras. And this has led to many big acts playing arenas rather than stadiums for fear of declining ticket sales.
The music industry saw its total revenue decline 4.8% to £3.8bn in 2010. That’s £189 million lower than in 2009. And it wasn’t just the continuing fall of CD sales to blame, as live music revenues declined 6.8% to £1.48bn last year after a decade of growth.
“It comes as no surprise that the overall numbers are down 5% as consumers are feeling their wallets tighten,” said Will Page, chief economist for PRS for Music.
The decline in acts touring the biggest venues was evident in a 70% fall in revenues from stadium gigs. Revenues from acts playing at arena-sized venues also suffered with revenues down about 14% year on year.
But the festival scene is vibrant, with a 20% rise in revenues from ticket sales, thanks to existing festivals increasing in size and the launch of a number of new events.
Sales of CDs fell by 7.9% to £1.24bn as music piracy and the shift to listening to music via digital services such as Spotify and Pandora continues to take its toll.
Despite increased growth in revenue from digital services in the UK, up almost 20% year on year to £316.5m, the report says that the promise of legal streaming and download services appears to have been overstated.
It is also worth noting that half of the top 10 selling albums in 2010 were either releases from 2009 – such as Lady Gaga and Michael Bublé – or compilations like Now That’s What I call Music 76.
In addition, the number of breakthrough acts, those who pass 100,000 album sales for the first time, hit a new low in 2010, with just 17 passing the mark. In recent years the average has been about 25 a year. This can partly be explained by overall falling sales, but it could also indicate that money is not being invested in new artists.
Overall the report shows a bleak picture at the top of the music business. Meanwhile at lower levels there are many talented acts playing shows in all major cities, dreaming of that big break – however difficult it might be.