Music represents the best of British to the world, with our musicians, songwriters, and producers defining the global soundtrack and shaping our global reputation.
Artists such as Harry Styles, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Stormzy are household names across the world. We also have a long musical heritage with acts like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd and many more, as well as famous venues such as the Cavern Club, 100 Club or Royal Albert Hall, and renowned festivals like Isle of Wight and Glastonbury, which attract visitors to the UK.
Despite our relatively small size, the UK’s music exports were worth £2.5 billion in 2021 and we are one of only three net exporters of music globally. In recorded music, the UK is the second largest exporter of music after only the US.
Whether its touring, recorded music or merchandise sales, brand endorsements radio airplay or publishing licensing income, UK music has a fantastic track record of being a successfully exported product.
Our musicians play in the world’s best orchestras, our opera singers tread the boards of famous stages, our producers, sound engineers, songwriters, managers and stage crew are in demand all over the world.
PPL have collected more than £429 million since 2006 in international royalties. (PPL 2023)
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.
Even during the pandemic in 2020 music exports were at £2.3 billion. The 23% loss was not as great as for GVA and employment, indicating a degree of strength despite the decline. In 2021, exports rose to £2.5 billion.
This contributes hugely to the economic value of the UK music industry and demonstrates the soft power of British music.
What are the issues?
However, there are challenges facing British music exports and the UK’s global music standing.
Bureaucratic obstacles for touring musicians after the UK’s exit from the EU are holding back sector growth.
Moreover, streaming growth is accelerating in key territories, and many domestic music markets, such as Latin America and South Korea, are strengthening.
Intense streaming competition is putting pressure on the UK’s global music share, now 12% down from a peak of 17% in 2015.
The UK is facing increasing competition from developing markets, including the USA and Europe, alongside rapidly growing domestic markets such as Latin America and South Korea, whose Governments are investing more in the cultural industries and helping their music industry’s flourish globally.
The USA is also a market where the UK music often performs well but has strong competition, and cost of visas for UK artists to perform is prohibitive for many.
The UK’s global market share of recorded music has declined from 17% in 2015 to 12% in 2022.
What can be done to support international growth?
Nonetheless, there remains huge growth potential in the UK music industry, with the value of the global recorded music market set to double by 2030 (BPI 2022). We must seize this opportunity and support the growth of our music globally to keep the UK at the forefront of the industry.
Extend And Boost Music Export Funding and Support
Government-industry partnerships, the BPI-administered Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS) and PRS Foundation’s International Showcase Fund (ISF) promote British music abroad and generate economic revenue.
The Government’s decision in June 2023 to boost MEGS funding to £3.2 million over the next two years is indicative of its success.
To further boost export growth, both schemes should continue to receive additional Government funding beyond 2025.
This will help support British artists target more export markets, preventing the UK losing global market share in the face of intensifying competition.
Create A Well-Funded Music Export Office
The UK needs to be more ambitious and systemic in supporting its music exports. Creating an
export office targeted at music would provide support to British small and medium-sized music companies and future talent and help to build their international audiences and export profile.
With adequate funding, a music export office will address export barriers and help to
grow music as a flagship UK industry.
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, without an Music Export Office, there is a risk that the UK will be left behind.
An export office should have a defined remit to look at international examples of sector support in other nations to help make recommendations.
The body could closely resemble agencies in Germany, France, Australia and Canada, which provide advice on export logistics and strategy to artists, as well as helping them to expand into new markets and increase their exposure. There is also a European Music Exporters Exchange, made up of 29 different national and regional bodies.
It would be a partnership between industry and government with all relevant sector organisations involved.
An export office would support future talent by allowing new artists to access international audiences and continue the great historic success of UK music abroad.
Secure a Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU
In 2019, the EU was the UK’s largest live music market, worth four times the size of the US (the UK’s second largest market).
Increased bureaucracy for touring musicians following the UK’s exit from the EU is limiting sector growth. Issues include restrictive visas and work permits, complicated red tape like carnets, and barriers related to selling merchandise and truck hire.
A Cultural Touring Agreement with the EU should be prioritised, potentially as part of the anticipated 2026 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) review. Find out more here.
Following the UK’s formal departure from the EU in 2020, supporting and growing the UK’s music industry overseas is more important than ever. New free trade agreements present an opportunity to secure this.
Overcoming market access issues, whether its impediments to copyright licensing or ensuring performers can enter without unnecessary bureaucracy should be prioritized as part of the negotiations. Find out more in the submissions below.
The international success of the music industry, which generated £2.3 billion in export revenues to the UK economy in 2020, is based on our solid copyright, licensing and enforcement framework.
Copyright is the foundation of the UK music industry. It provides a means for creators to monetise their work, gives incentives for investment in talent and enables the public to enjoy our creativity. Read more here.
If you would like to read more about our asks to Government read our Manifesto for Music.
There is no universal formula for a country to boost its music exports. The following case studies detail music export support in three territories within the world’s top ten music markets, South Korea (7th) Canada (8th) and Australia (10th). South Korea’s significant central government investment, Australia’s successful implementation of a music export office, and Canada’s support from public-private partnerships have all led to increased export revenues.
While South Korea is a new and growing entrant, Canada and Australia are in a similar position to the UK as established markets seeking to maintain their global positions. If the UK wishes to remain the third largest music market and the second biggest exporter of music in the world, then it needs to implement similar support measures, or we will fall behind.
South Korean music exports have increased more than fifty-fold in the last 15 years, rising from £10.8 million in 2007 to £604 million in 2021.9 K-Pop has become a global phenomenon, with BTS, Blackpink, Seventeen and Stray Kids having four of the top 10 bestselling albums worldwide in 2022 (IFPI 2022).
This success owes much to significant government investment and a strategic focus on music as a priority sector, harnessing its soft power benefits to promote Korean culture to the world.
Music is the single largest investment in the Korean Ministry of Culture’s portfolio. Funding is largely delivered through the Korean Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), which was established in 2009 and acts as a cultural export office. KOCCA provides financial support for artists performing overseas, organises international showcases and has business centres in four continents.
Moreover, KOCCA facilitates connections between the global private sector and domestic music organisations. In 2021, the Government fostered connections between 76 Korean creative companies and 137 companies from 11 countries interested in their products, resulting in an export equivalent value of £7.8 million.
Australia is open about their ambition to join the US, UK, and Sweden as a net exporter of music. In 2009, Australia formed its music export office, known as ‘Sounds Australia’.
The impact of the export office is clear; in less than a decade Australasian international
royalty revenues have nearly tripled from £11.2 million in 2013 to £30.7 million in 2022.12
In its first ten years, Sounds Australia has supported 1,404 Australian acts, coordinated 137 B2B networking events, provided 31 trade stands and provided over 6,000 meeting opportunities (Creative Australia).
In addition, Sounds Australia is a global curator of playlists on Apple Music, which reach people in over 110 countries.
In August 2023, the creation of Music Australia was announced: a new federal body within Creative Australia devoted to supporting and investing in Australia’s music industry. Music Australia’s activities will have £36 million in funds over the first four years (Sydney Moring Herald 2023).
This funding will support songwriting programmes and instruments for schoolchildren, the creation of new music venues, and provide additional money for Sounds Australia. This investment highlights that the Australian Government are serious about their ambition to become the world’s fourth net exporter of music.
Canada is the seventh largest exporter of music globally, producing two of last year’s top five bestselling artists: Drake and The Weeknd. Canada’s export success can be partially attributed to the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR), an organisation dedicated to administering grants that promote and export Canadian music. While primarily funded through contributions from the Government of Canada, FACTOR also receives money from territorial governments, private donors, broadcasting revenues and the music industry itself. In addition, FACTOR works alongside the country’s regional music offices, who provide export support at a provincial level. Separate funding avenues are even available for French language music exports.
As a state-backed organisation devoted to boosting Canadian music, FACTOR offers dozens of grants tailored to the industry’s diverse needs. Whether aiding an emerging artist’s demo recording or supporting an established musician’s album promotion or international tour, it provides a purpose-built funding programme to suit their specific needs. Canada is also prioritising the ‘song export’, with specific funding available for Canadian songwriters, composers, and publishing companies to promote the influence of Canadian songwriters globally.
What do we mean when we say music exports?
UK Music uses the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) definition
of exports, which is recognised internationally by governments and other agencies.
This states: “Exports of goods and services consist of sales, barter, or gifts or grants, of goods and services from residents to non-residents”.
For example, when non-residents of the UK spend money on tickets for music concerts or festivals in the UK, they are contributing to exports, as they are non-residents spending on the services of residents.
But, in respect of most of music exports, money moves across international borders. That is non-resident consumers and/or businesses are making purchases outside the UK which, through a wide range of channels, transfer back across international borders to UK-based businesses.
The Government has launched an Export Support Service helpline and online service where all UK businesses can get answers to practical questions about exporting to Europe. You can access the service online here or by calling 0300 303 8955.
The GREAT Campaign showcases the very best of the UK, inspiring the world to collaborate, visit, study and do business here. Find out more here.
- UK Music Submission to House of Lords EU Services Sub-Committee Future Trade in Services with the EU
- Potential areas of improvement to the current trading arrangements with Mexico
- Potential areas of improvement to the current trading arrangements with Canada
- Free Trade Agreement between the UK and New Zealand
- Free Trade Agreement between the UK and India