Lewis Capaldi was the UK’s best-selling artist of 2019, as music consumption grew for the fifth year in a row.
The Scottish star had both the top album and single of the year, with his ballad Someone You Loved racking up 228 million streams.
The industry is now dominated by streaming – with fans cueing up 114 billion songs last year, a new record.
Vinyl sales also rose again. Liam Gallagher’s Why Me? Why Not was the most popular LP, selling 29,000 copies.
Best-selling albums of 2019
According to trade body the BPI, streaming is now responsible for three-quarters of “album equivalent sales” – the metric used by the industry to convert consumption on services like Spotify and Amazon Music into album sales (generally speaking, 1,000 streams generate one “sale”).
Just three years ago, the technology was only responsible for 36% of album sales.
The explosion in popularity of on-demand music has turned the fortunes of the industry around, with album sales up 13% since 2010. Revenues, however, have not grown at a similar pace, as streaming pays less than real-world sales.
The year’s biggest hit singles included Lil Nas X’s country-rap crossover Old Town Road and Ava Max’s pop smash Sweet But Psycho.
Best-selling singles of 2019
Sales of CDs continued to nosedive, with 26.5 million sold over the last 12 months – a drop of 26.8%.
By contrast, vinyl sales rose by 4.1%, with the format now accounting for one in every eight albums bought in the UK.
Big-sellers included Billie Eilish’s debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and perennial classics like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Queen’s Greatest Hits.
Cassettes also proved surprisingly popular, with more than 80,000 tapes sold in 2019 – the highest figure since 2004.
The tally was boosted by Robbie Williams’ number one album A Christmas Present, which sold more than 10,000 cassette copies in a single week in December.
However, his success had more to do with marketing than a sudden surge in affection for the archaic format – the cassettes were sold as part of a merchandise bundle on his website, with the twist being that only the tapes were signed.
The popularity of cassettes and vinyl “shows fans still love a physical, tangible music artefact in their hands”, said Vanessa Higgins, chief executive of music label Regent Street Records.
Overall, 154 million albums were either streamed, bought or or downloaded – the largest amount since 2006, when the figure stood at 161.4 million.
Album sales by year in the UK
Geoff Taylor, head of the BPI, said British music had a “bright future”.
“Strong demand for streaming music and vinyl, fuelled by the investment and innovation of UK labels in discovering and promoting new talent, boosted music consumption to levels not seen for 15 years,” he said.
“But the full benefits of this growth can only be unlocked if our new government takes action to make the UK more competitive and encourage further investment, to require digital platforms to pay fairly for music and filter out illegal content, and to give all our schoolchildren the opportunity to play an instrument and discover the joy of making music.”