International Trade

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Brit Awards show why the music industry could be the UK’s “poster boy” for exports

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Ed Sheeran is Britain’s biggest export since Downton Abbey – that’s what official statistics say. Not only did his second album sell 2m copies, he also far exceeded 830m hits on Spotify. For more perspective, his album sold over 1m more copies than 2013’s best seller. This was followed by Sam Smith’s ‘In The Lonly Hour‘ with 1.25m copies.

It’s no wonder then that, led by Sheeran, the British music industry has filled the entire top ten best-selling albums spots over the past 12 months.

The UK’s creative industries are together worth £36bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) and supports around 1.5m jobs. With competition from abroad, to sell albums or producing new video-games, on the rise, it has never been more important to set the foundations for future economic success in this sector.

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BPI figures suggest the UK’s recorded music industry accounts for one in eight albums purchased by fans around the globe.

“We are coming out of a recession, but the country now needs to lead the economic recovery with its strongest performing sectors and that means music, which is growing much faster than a lot of other areas,” suggested UK Music CEO Jo Dipple. “Everyone has focused on hard industries, but actually the music industry should be seen as the future of the UK economy because it is employment strong, export strong and revenue strong and growing nine per cent.”

But according to the Guardian, Sheeran hasn’t become the most searched male celebrity on nicety or talent alone.

“A bit of luck helps, too. The initial spark for Sheeran’s stratospheric success can be traced back to two chance events. The first occurred during an impromptu LA trip in 2010, which led to a friendship with the actor and musician Jamie Foxx. Foxx saw Sheeran play and ended up providing him with exposure in the US on his radio show. That same year, Sheeran’s music was noticed by the web mogul Jamal Edwards, The SB.TV connections led to Sheeran collaborating with established grime artists.”

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But not everyone is as lucky, which is way the CBI is calling on the government and industry to work better together to ensure that the UK’s world-beating sector remains an essential sector which delivers jobs and growth.

Many SME music labels, distributors and management companies, achieve remarkable success when launching their artists in the UK. But due to limited resources, replicating such success internationally is often impossible. This creates the risk that significant opportunities are being missed, not only for the companies and artists themselves, but also for the UK economy.

One of the only schemes set up by the government is the Music Export Growth Scheme, whereby each artist will be able to put the funding towards tour support, overseas venue costs, international travel costs, marketing, promotion and costs. But more needs to be done.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: “Britain’s creative industries are the envy of the world. You only have to look at the success of Sam Smith at the Grammys to see British music is still very much striking a chord with music fans across the globe.”

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