UK music industry ‘contributes £4.5bn to UK economy'

More than 145,000 people are now working in the industry, UK Music said.

The UK music industry contributed £4.5 billion to the nation’s economy last year, according to a report.

Ed Sheeran is among the British artists driving a multibillion-pound surge in revenues and exports as the UK continued to punch above its weight in 2017, the report by UK Music said.

The UK has the fourth biggest music market in the world and more than 145,000 people are now working in the industry, it added.

Industry experts warned that the foundation for financial success is being undermined by declining music education and unfair rewards for artists, who receive only a fraction of the wealth they generate and often earn below the average UK wage.

The report tallied the total generated by the industry at £4.5 billion in gross value added to the economy last year – a £100 million rise from 2016 – and music exports stood at £2.6 billion.

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Rag ‘n’ Bone Man had the second biggest-selling UK album of 2017 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Both totals are the highest in the past five years, marking a continued expansion of the industry from a £3.5 billion economic contribution in 2012.

UK Music chief executive Michael Dugher said: “We are a global leader in music and we continue to grow faster than other parts of the British economy and to punch well above our weight.

“These figures show what can be achieved when we choose to back the British music industry.”

Around 34,000 more people are employed in the industry now than in 2013, with the number of workers at a five-year high of 145,000. 

Musicians make up 91,000 of this total.

These creative talents have been credited with driving a worldwide demand for British music.

Minister for digital and the creative industries Margot James said: “2017 was a very successful year globally for the UK music industry.

“Ed Sheeran’s third album ÷ (Divide) was the biggest selling album of the year. The O2 in London was officially the most popular live music arena in the world. Five of the top 10 most successful worldwide tours were from UK acts.

“We need to build on these achievements, and as the minister responsible for the creative industries I am firmly committed to doing just that.”

However, there are concerns that support for the UK music “ecosystem” is lacking, and that talent at the bottom of the food chain could be killed off.

The report warned of “major impediments”, including a decline in musical education, the closing of venues and the poor financial rewards for artists, which leave creative roles open only to beneficiaries of “the bank of mum and dad”.

UK Music said the average salary in 2017 was £29,000, but that the average yearly earnings for a musician were just £20,000. 

The organisation claims there was a 7.4% drop in students taking a music GCSE in 2017/18.

The report also warned that the privately educated – just 7% of schoolchildren – account for 17% of British musicians, and that without financial help this proportion could increase.

Mr Dugher said: “Every child from every background should have the opportunity to access music, to experience its transformative power, and to try out a career in the industry if they want to, regardless of whether or not they have access to the bank of mum and dad.

“That’s why we need further Government support to help us ensure we produce the next generation of world-leading British talent.”

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