The popularity of Ed Sheeran, elevated by the launch of his latest album, Divide, and his headline Glastonbury spot, helped drive total UK music sales 11.2% higher to £564m in the first half of 2017.
Sheeran continues to divide critical opinion, not least with his recent cameo in hit TV series Game of Thrones, but there is no denying the fillip the Suffolk-raised artist has given to the UK music industry, entertainment retailers and services.
Divide is the biggest-selling entertainment product in the UK in the year to date, selling more than 2m units, ahead of film release Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with 1.18m.
The success of Sheeran’s album – which at one point overwhelmed the official charts with all 16 songs making the Top 20 singles list – helped push music streaming and downloads on services such as Spotify and Apple Music up by 16.6% year on year to £366.6m. For comparison purposes the industry uses a measure of 1,000 music streams or 10 singles as the equivalent to the cost of one album sold.
The value of physical music sales climbed 2.5% to £198m overall – the first rise in a decade – as the ongoing revival in vinyl more than made up for the inexorable decline in the popularity of the CD.
The value of vinyl sales grew by 37.6% to £37.3m in the first six months, led by Divide with the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack and the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band also making the top five sellers.
Sales of CDs have been in decline since 2007, when the once mighty market was worth £1.12bn. It is now worth less than 18% of that, £198m.
While the number of vinyl records sold increased by 35.7% to 1.9m year on year in the first half of 2017, the overall volume of sales of physical music continues to decline.
Adding the buoyant vinyl sales to those of CDs of albums and singles there was still an overall decline of 4% from 22.7m to 21.8m copies.
Revenue from streaming and downloads of films, TV and music, and sales of CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, video games and vinyl records surged 6.4% in the first half to £2.98bn, up £180m and double the 3% growth rate in the same period last year.
The video sector, which includes sales of DVDs as well as paid-for film and TV downloads and streams from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Sky Store, increased by 1.2% year on year to £978m.
However, paid-for digital content and services rose 15% to £669m year on year. Physical sales of DVDs and Blu-rays fell by almost 20%, or some £78m, to £321m.
“Entertainment has now seen over four years of continuous growth thanks to a combination of digital services pioneering new ways of consuming music, video and games,” said Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association, which published the market report. “To now deliver another £180m worth of sales in the first half of 2017 is really extraordinary.”
Video games, the largest sector of the entertainment market as categorised by the ERA, grew by 8.4% to £1.44bn. Within this, digital sales of video games and content rose 11.9% to £1.226bn. Physical sales of games fell by 8% to £235.7m.
Overall, three-quarters of the £3bn of entertainment sector revenues are now accounted for by digital services and content.
Last year, Britain’s growing appetite for services such as Netflix and Amazon helped push streaming and downloads of films and TV shows ahead of sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the first time.