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Trading Up: How The Music Industry Can Boost UK Exports 

4.11.2022: It’s International Trade Week, which aims to help UK businesses maximise their global potential. The music industry has a track record of success internationally. Over the decades British music has defined the global soundtrack. From the swinging sixties to Cool Britannia, music has helped define the UK’s brand globally.  

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It’s International Trade Week, which aims to help UK businesses maximise their global potential.   

The music industry has a track record of success internationally. Over the decades British music has defined the global soundtrack. From the swinging sixties to Cool Britannia, music has helped define the UK’s brand globally.   

The UK is the largest exporter of music in the world after the USA; around one in 10 of all tracks streamed globally are by a British artist. According to the BPI, one in ten songs streamed globally in 2020 were by UK artists and last year recorded music exports grew by 13.7% to a new annual high of £590.8 million.  

There are huge opportunities for the music industry abroad. Whether it’s touring, recorded music or merchandise sales, radio airplay or publishing licensing income, UK music has a fantastic track record of being a successfully exported product.   

General support is available from the Department of International Trade, as well as music-industry-specific schemes, such as the BPI-administered Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), which is designed to make available grants ranging from £5,000 – £50,000 to UK-registered independent music companies to assist them with marketing campaigns when looking to introduce successful UK music projects overseas. For almost 10 years, MEGS has supported over 300 UK music export projects. Government investment in the scheme has helped a diversity of genres. The scheme returns £13.45 for every £1 invested. The PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund (ISF) also offers vital export support for UK-based artists, bands, songwriters and producers who have been invited to perform or create new music at international showcasing festivals or conferences.  

However, the global music industry is an increasingly competitive place. Globalisation has created a hyper competitive music marketplace with many countries’ industries being supported by their governments, to not just survive, but challenge for dominance, with the global recorded music market set to double by 2030.  

It’s more important than ever that the UK Government does what it can to remove those barriers for UK businesses.  

Schemes like MEGS and ISF have a strong track record in providing significant return on investment for the UK economy – both create over 10 times as much money as is invested.  

At a time when the UK may be looking to tighten the purse strings it would be wise to continue funding such schemes given how much they and the music industry bring to the UK economy.  

In 2020, before the pandemic hit the UK’s total export revenue of the music industry was £2.9 billion in 2019 – up 9% from £2.7 billion in 2018 – compared to a 0.7% growth in exports across the economy as a whole.  

Another way the Government could support the industry is with the development of a Music Export Strategy. The Government should look to be more ambitious and systemic in supporting music exports. This should involve creating a Music Export Office to support creators and businesses looking to build their profile abroad.   

UK music workers also face difficulties engaging with key international markets in Europe due to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which introduced new red tape and extra costs for the music industry. Establishing a Transitional Support Fund would help cushion the blow and cover additional costs for touring artists, musicians, crew and businesses. The Government should also work bilaterally and multilaterally to get a deal which addresses barriers to music exports.   

Also, as the Government looks for new free trade agreements with countries across the globe, it should make sure that these deals protect creators and rights holders and deliver payments when their work is used by other people. 

UK Music, and our members, are ambitious about what UK music exports can deliver over the next 20 years in a rapidly expanding but increasingly competitive global market. We want the UK Government to match that ambition and help ensure that every UK music worker has their chance to take their talent to the world.   

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