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UK recorded music consumption grows in 2021 with 147 billion streams

Over 150 million equivalent album sales were recorded last year, across physical and streaming formats

By Will Richards

Adele poses for Rolling Stone
Adele poses for Rolling Stone (Picture: Theo Wenner)

The UK recorded music industry saw another year of growth in 2021, with 147 billion streams and over 150 million equivalent album sales recorded last year.

According to data from the BPI, Album Equivalent Streams (AES) for last year saw 159.3 million equivalent albums sold, up on the 155.4m from 2020 and representing a seventh consecutive year of growth.

147 billion individual streams were also recorded last year, up 5.7 per cent year-on-year and representing 132.4 million streamed full albums.

The biggest-selling album of 2021 was Adele‘s ’30’, which racked up over 600,000 sales, while Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Dave and more also featured in the Top Ten.

Reflecting on the figures, Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said: “As our lives continue to be disrupted, the past 12 months have reminded us again of the important role that recorded music plays in our lives. At the same time, the rise of streaming  has empowered more artists than ever – from all backgrounds and eras – to build new fanbases around the world and to forge successful careers in music, while record labels have continued to provide the investment and support needed for British talent to thrive and reach a truly global audience.”

Ed Sheeran poses for a press photo with his head resting on his arms, wearing a white t-shirt
Ed Sheeran recently released new album ‘=’. (Photo: Atlantic Records).

Reflecting on figures showing that over 14 million CDs and five million vinyl LPs were sold in 2021, Drew Hill of Proper Music Distribution said: “It’s been an incredible year for CDs, vinyl and cassettes as they continued to drive albums up the charts.

“This year, nearly 90% of unique No.1 albums hit the top spot off the back of a physical sales majority, with some hugely impressive numbers from the likes of Adele, whose new album maintained its chart lead with an increasing physical majority share, and ABBA, who claimed the title of fastest-selling vinyl of the century. It’s further proof that in this golden era of choice, music fans really cherish an album they can hold!”

Last month, streaming services revealed that Olivia Rodrigo’s breakout track ‘drivers license’ was the most streamed song globally for 2021, with single ‘good 4 u’ being the most played song on both Apple and Spotify in the UK.

The 2021 newcomer also claimed the top spot for most streamed album globally for her debut ‘SOUR’, followed in second by Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’.

On Apple, K-pop megastars BTS came out on top with their single ‘Dynamite’. It was released in 2020, but the streaming service only launched in South Korea this year.