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Music Industry In UK Booms As Brexit Disaster Looms

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A British Phonographic Industry report shows that British music exports are now at their highest level in almost two decades. According to the BPI, UK labels generated revenues of £408.4 million in 2017, up by 12% over the previous year.

The strong performance contributes to more than £5 billion in revenue generated by the sector since 2000. Taking into account payments made overseas, UK labels generated a net £200 million balance of payments surplus for the UK economy in 2017, up by more than a fifth (+23%) on 2016.

Last year’s strong export figures for UK music was fueled by strong demand for Ed Sheeran’s Divide, which sold 6.1 million copies worldwide (excluding streams) according to international music body the IFPI– contributing to Sheeran’s dominance as the Global Recording Artist of 2017 – ahead of Drake and Taylor Swift.

Other stand-out performances by British artists included Rag’n’Bone Man, whose debut “Human” was the fourth best-selling album in the world, ahead of Sam Smith’s The Thrill of it All at No.5 and Harry Styles’ self-titled solo release, which also made the global top-10.

Revenue growth was most-marked across Europe – up 29 percent over the past two years since 2015. Increases in major markets Germany (9%), France (+57%), Italy (+22%) and Spain (+33%) led the way, contributing to a European total of £165 million in 2017 and a 42 percent share of the UK’s global music exports.

Europe as a whole remains the UK’s biggest export market for music, although the US is the biggest-single national market by a significant margin, accounting for over a third (35%) of the UK’s music earnings.

Brexit Worries

At the same time, the BPI sounded a cautionary note as the March 29th, 2019 date for the realization of Brexit draws close.

“British music is riding high once again around the world, boosted by the talent of our artists and songwriters and the innovation and investment of record labels. Our music not only enriches the lives of fans around the world, it makes a major contribution to the UK economy through overseas sales and by attracting numerous visitors to the UK.

“With Brexit approaching, music can help to showcase what is exciting about the UK as we forge new trading relationships, but only if our Government supports us by ensuring a strong Brexit deal that enables artists to tour freely, robustly protects music rights, and prevents physical music products being impeded in transit.”

The government of British Prime Minister Theresa May has increasingly drawn criticism from political opponents over her handling of the nation’s EU exit. The May government has offered little guidance for what a post-Brexit UK will look like and key issues such as import/export and immigration rules remain to be hammered out.

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