New analysis from the BPI – the UK’s association of independent and major record labels – shows that independently released music is booming and in 2021 saw its fourth consecutive year of growth.
The collective share of UK music consumption attributable to independent labels1 – including BPI members such as Dirty Hit, Partisan and PIAS – increased to 26.9% in 2021. This figure was up from 25.9% in 2020 and is significantly higher than the figure for 22.1% recorded in 20172.
Independent labels‘ share of artist album sales grew by more than a tenth in just two years, growing across all formats from 30.4% in 2019 to 34.2% in 2021. UK vinyl market share has grown even more strongly and in 2021 they accounted for four in ten vinyl record purchases (39.5%) – up from 33.9% in 2019.
BPI information is based on Official Map Company data and come from All About Music 2022 – the 43rd edition of the BPI Yearbook, published today. This annual industry authoritative report reviews and analyzes UK music consumption trends in 20213.
This strong performance reflects a particularly successful year for “independent” artists, with 60 independent albums charting in the Official Top 10 (vs. 52 in 2020), including #1 albums from artists such as Wolf Alice, Mogwai, KSI. and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, while new artists including Central Cee, KSI and AJ Tracey have each racked up hundreds of millions of streams in the UK alone. The enduring appeal of indie albums that have become classics is now allowing them to find new audiences through streaming and vinyl sales. 2013 release of the Arctic Monkeys A M was the best-selling independent album of 2021, while Adele’s 21 and 25 has also fueled the sector’s success.
This positive trend continues strongly into 2022, with indie market share across the UK now reaching 28.9% year-to-date, boosted by No. 1 albums by The Wombats, Don Broco , Stereophonics and rapper Central Cee. With highly anticipated new albums from Wet Leg – who this week appear to be on their way to No. 1 on the Official Albums Chart ahead of fellow indie artists Father John Misty and Jack White – AJ Tracey and Fontaines DC, that growing momentum is likely to continue. See graphs and comments below for more information.
Geoff Taylor, Managing Director of BPI, BRIT Awards and Mercury Prizesmentioned:
“The UK has an enviable independent music scene and is enhancing the choice and variety of new and existing UK talent. This continued growth demonstrates that labels and independent artists are thriving in the age of music streaming, and particularly successful in the vinyl revival. We are delighted to see the independent sector growing more and more, contributing to the growth of the UK music industry as a whole.
Table 1 – Official 2021 Top 10 Independent Albums Chart © Official Map Company
- Arctic Monkeys / AM (Domino recordings)
- Adele / 25 (XL recordings)
- KSI / Everywhere (BMG)
- Central Cee / Far West (Central Cee)
- Adele/21 (XL recordings)
- Arctic Monkeys / Everything People Say I Am (That’s What I Am Not) (Domino Recordings)
- Wolf Alice / Blue Weekend (Dirty Hit)
- Bo Burnham / Inside (The Songs) (imperial)
- Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds / Back The Way We Came Vol.1 (Sour Mash)
- AJ Tracey / Flu Game (Revenge Records)
Chart 2 – Official Independent Singles Chart 2021 Top 10 © Official Map Company
- KSI/Vacation (BMG)
- Tom Zanetti / I Didn’t Know (SIC)
- Adele / Someone Like You (XL Recordings)
- Cee central / Commitment issues (Ce central)
- Central Cee / Loading (Central Cee)
- Arctic Monkeys / Do I Wanna Know (Domino Recordings)
- Arctic Monkeys / Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High (Domino Recordings)
- Shouse / Love Tonight (Onelove Recordings)
- Adele / Rolling In The Deep (XL recordings)
- Passenger / Let Her Go (Nettwerk)
Indie year in review
The first few weeks of 2021 saw Official Album Chart No. 1s for You Me At Six, Mogwai and Architects as well as Top 5 LPs for Passenger, Bicep, Black Country New Road and Alice Cooper. New releases from Central Cee and Thunder entered the Top 3 on the chart in successive weeks in March, followed by a series of high profile debuts from artists such as Dry Cleaning, Girl In Red, Squid and Orla Gartland. .
2021 has seen new levels of success from returning artists. Little Simz LP Sometimes I could be introverted rewarded the rapper with her first Top 10 ranking, while KSI and Wolf Alice scored RJ Thompson’s first No. 1 records. safety rope became her first Top-5 album and Black Honey’s album Written and Directed was their first to make the Top 10. AJ Tracey flu game outperformed its eponymous predecessor, entering No. 2, while Public Service Broadcasting light magic was their first to crack the Top-3.
Arctic Monkeys’ A Mtheir fifth album released in 2013, was the highest performing independent album of 2021. The group ranks highly in terms of monthly listeners on streaming services and their singles do i wanna know and Why do you only call me when you’re stoned (both from AM) have collectively amassed more than 80 million plays in 2021, according to data from the Official Charts Company. A M is also in continued demand on LP and was placed in the Year-End Top-20 Official Vinyl Chart 2021.
Biggest New Independent Release Was KSI’s Second Album Everywhere, which was No. 1 in July and had sold nearly 100,000 copies by the end of the year. Each of the Top-10s have sold over 60,000 copies in 2021 and all six newly released albums have made the weekly Top 5, including three at No. 1.
KSI Holiday, a No. 2 hit in June, was the biggest independent single of the year, and was certified gold in October. by Tom Zanetti I did not know was also certified Gold in the fall and received over 50 million streams in 2021, while Central Cee celebrated a breakthrough year with three top 10 singles and a No. 2 album.
There have been some notable BRIT Certified Awards in 2021 for indie catalog titles. Adele’s Someone like You reached 5x Platinum in July, with Major Lazer’s Cold water become 3x Platinum towards the end of the year. Three Arctic Monkeys tracks have been certified BRIT Double Platinum and artists as diverse as Gerry Cinnamon, BTS, Jorja Smith and The Cinematic Orchestra have gone Platinum.
A number of independently released tracks have reached milestones in terms of audio streams. Songs by Bugzy Malone, Joel Adams, Skepta and Bon Iver all surpassed the 50 million mark in 2021, with Two Door Cinema Club among those seeing individual tracks surpass 100 million plays. Over 40 titles on independent labels received over 20 million streams in 2021 alone, including Shouse’s love tonightSR Welcome to BrixtonLord Huron The night we met and Jubel ft Neimy’s Dancing in the moonlight.
The vitality of the independent sector was symbolized by Arlo Parks, signed Transgressive, who won both the Hyundai Mercury Prize for his acclaimed album Collapsed in the rays of the sun and the price for BRITs Breakthrough.
The BPI All About The Music 2022 Directory is free for BPI members, but can be purchased here.