back to article Twenty somethings shocker for UK music sales

The UK music industry’s annual statistical bible has been published by the BPI, and it shows how much work it needs to do with music fans. In a nutshell, the business depends on real punters - people who like music enough to actually buy it regularly, and while there were more of them last year, they’re spending less. There are …


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  1. AndrueC Silver badge

    I will continue to buy CDs

    ..until there is a way of downloading *uncompressed* music. I could tolerate maximum variable bit rate WMA (since that's what I originally ripped my music at) but no version of MP3 is good enough for my home system. But I recently upgraded my receiver and speakers so now I've changed to ripping lossless and am re-ripping some albums.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    teenagers buying music

    Wonder how much of this is a result of that if a teenager has an iPod then giving them an iTunes voucher is probably a very simple solution to the "what to mut a teenage grandchild/nephew/neive" for birthday/Christmas etc.

  3. ravenviz

    Music biz

    It's all about record companies (profits) and their "target audiences" i.e. the lower age bracket. They don't give a toss about 30's - 50's and hence sales are low - good job! (not). It's a direct correlation. I for one am in my 40's and typically spend £30 a month on CD's and £100 a month on live shows* (on average, includes festivals), supporting the very music I want to hear, but I have to do a lot of hard work to find the stuff I want to listen to. Strangely enough people actually do like music and would pay for it of marketed and delivered properly.

    *too few smaller capacity venues, low competition in the market place, high ticket fees**

    **ticket prices are allowed to be high, that's the market worth of that act, it's the fees that are ridiculous

  4. Anonymous Coward

    DRM long gone?

    Really, well i have not considered buying from iTunes as result of its existence and i am loathe to trust a retailer that embraced it.

    I recently helped a friend setup a new ipod on a new mac laptop, some tunes had to be 're-authorised' to a new computer and a friendly message appeared saying i had 3 computers left on which i could authorise those tracks on. While that is still in existence then DRM is far from gone!!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What about flacs

      You can download .flac files right?

      (Not that I've ever been able to tell the difference between flac and high-bitrate mp3's)

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Uhm, so?

      The DRM is still gone on the music, and has been for some time now. Even the encoding quality has improved. (And MPEG4 / AAC was already better than the older MP3 standard.)

      The video, on the other hand, is DRMed to the hilt, hence the "authorization" stuff.

      Apple don't have any choice about that. Good luck buying legal, DRM-free videos of popular movies and TV programmes online from *any* reputable supplier. Not even Amazon or Netflix offer this.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        From a technical POV, sure. You can download anything if you have the server address and credentials :)

        The difficulty is obtaining those files legally - or was when I last looked. I don't care about the physical media and in fact would prefer not to have it cluttering up my back room and hate the idea of the wasted resources in producing it. I rip everything then play it through a SqueezeBox 3.

        If there is somewhere I can legitimately buy albums encoded in a lossless format without breaking the from the UK then please tell me. SqueezeCenter (*) and SB3 can handle pretty much any format you care to mention.

        (*)..or whatever they are calling it this month.

      2. Ned Leprosy

        One difference...

        I can't tell the difference either (well, between a high-quality ogg and flac in my case) but one thing I did learn to beware of is the problem converting from one format to another: if yesterday's mp3 is re-encoded into today's ogg which is then converted into tomorrow's flavour-of-the-month, you end up with a sort of digital analogue (pun unintended) of cassette-to-cassette recording, where the losses will soon become apparent.

        There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I decided to go down the flac route years ago: not just because I had to buy more of the then expensive storage, but I'd already encoded a large chunk of my collection twice, first into mp3 and second into ogg. But in hindsight I'm glad I did: the tools for generating mp3s, oggs or whatever aren't exactly transparent, but it's nice having the option without the niggling thought at the back of my head, "I'm going to have to do all that again one day. And so many of them are scratched to buggery."

        1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

          When You Buy...

          ...a CD, you are purchasing a license to listen to, and play for your friends, the music contained on the media. If you are a professional, for example a Club DJ, the copy you rip to your hard drive has the metadata to allocate the performance rights money venues are already paying.

          There are CD's and DVD's full of music that is licensed for unlimited uses such as scoring or sound loops for ACID music assembly.

          For the labels, selling the license and a high quality download makes money faster than pressing millions of disks. Someone that wants to "own" a song will not object to the download cost for the extra bytes. Sony Software sells downloads, with an optional Disk.

          On the other hand, sending a blue ray disk by post would provide a shorter start delay than downloading it on my 3Mb. One 10 G movie download would blow your bandwidth cap several times over. This will change, the 41 cent postage stamp will creep upward, and the price of Real Unlimited Internet will tumble. Netflix is ready at their end to stream very pretty content, but once the Physical Disk, and with it the Doctrine of First Sale are out of the channel, Netflix will find it harder to compete. Luckily, the Bean Counters at the studios will never let them stop pressing CDs, Blue Raze, Holodisk, or whatever.

    3. AndrueC Silver badge

      Bloody itunes

      I managed to avoid it for ages but then my Archos player failed. I wanted something with a big enough disk to hold my entire collection but didn't want to go with some no-name fly by night manufacturer. I also didn't want to pay a premium for video playback ability.

      Unfortunately that seemed to just leave the iPod classic which means I've now had to install iTunes. What a palaver. I couldn't even upload music until I'd created an account and registered my player. Then it turns out that half of my music isn't sold by iStore so I don't get any album art for it.

      I hate Apple. Their developer documentation is good (or was going back to the original Macs) but for everything else they are too restrictive and closed.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Erm, album art?

        Pretty sure it uses one of the CDDBs for that. Or you can add your own. Or use one of the many "add your album art" scripts out there. Windows Media Player does the same thing.

        Honestly, some people see problems where there aren't any, especially with iTunes. I think they associate AAC with DRM as well, and assume it is all Apples fault.

        People really need to get over it.

        1. Stevie Silver badge


          *My* windows media player grabbed the art for about sixty albums (without my say-so) I had transfered from machine to machine over three different versions of Windows.

          I forgot that I now had a persistent internet connection and couldn't find the preference settings fast enough to stop WMP from ratting me out to teh intarweb.

          So on the face of it, you appear to be wrong. The windows media player has no trouble at all getting the artwork for the recordings you have transferred to your computer. This behaviour is the opposite of the iTunes problem described by the original poster.

          I'd say any "just works" "better" software that requires 3rd party bolt-ons to do the basic and obvious things people would need (like getting iStore purchases from the handheld back onto a rebuilt desktop) is tat.

          Just did in fact.

          But I label iTunes as tat for many more reasons than that, starting with the handful of unnecessary services it insists be started (more than Norton Internet Services does and with far less reason) and the fact it seems unaware that if one account has iTunes installed the others (that don't) don't need all that applecruft and shouldn't have to deal with it.

      2. Frank Bough

        Well, why not

        just do the album artwork yourself, then? Cut n paste, it's hardly difficult.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Down


          Or maybe iTunes could just do it for me the way Windows Media Player does and has done for years?

          I guess you two must be Apple fanboys. I can't see anyone else excusing a company that prides itself as being at the forefront of technology actually producing a product that has fewer features than a competitor.

          Perhaps you don't understand what iTunes is supposed to be. It's not a geek's toy. It's supposed to be a straightforward and automated way to obtain and store media files. With WMP if I want to rip a CD I insert it..wait a minute and it's done. All track names, artist names and album arts with no interaction on my part.

          With iTunes I'm then supposed to run a script and or scan/download my own artwork? WTF is that about?

        2. Naughtyhorse


          just cut and paste......

          what for both records in my collection

          up here for thinking, down there for dancing

      3. Stevie Silver badge


        And just wait until your desktop/laptop/whatever suffers a problem and you have to restore iTunes. All those recordings you bought from the iStore? now confined to your handheld device unless you use a non-Apple utility to get them back into iTunes or, get this official Apple line, buy them all over again from the iStore.

        The advice to back up your iTunes library? Vitally important to follow it.

        1. Goat Jam

          Buy them again?


          While it is true you have to go through the purchasing procedure to download them again and click the "Buy" button you don't actually have to pay again. iTunes will simply inform you that you have already purchased that material and proceed to download it for you.

    4. TeeCee Gold badge

      Interesting and raises a point.

      What I want is something that'll rip and store lossless and automagically transcode to a smaller (i.e. lower bitrate) format on request when outputting.

      That way I can keep my stuff lossless and optimise space use on media for the car and portable players where the quality is not required and space is an issue.

      Haven't found anything so far....

      1. Frank Bough
        Thumb Up

        iTunes can do that... can store all of your music in an uncompressed format (AIF, WAV or Apple Lossless) and have it automagically transcoded to 128kbps AAC on export to your iDevice.

        It's quite an efficient system.

      2. Britt Johnston

        lossless in, compressed out

        You can use most recording programmes - I use one from Magix - to do this. The catch is that lossless storage takes space, so I usually end up defining a suitable compressed format to reduce the storage side, in the interests of efficiency.

      3. John H Woods Silver badge

        Boycotting search engines?

        Don't over think it ... just type in terms :-) For instance 'how do i convert flac to mp3 on the fly' or 'transcoding media server' or 'store lossless audio play mp3' all produce likely candidates in the first page of search results with both the search engines I tried.

        I keep all my ripped CDs as .flacs --- and the CDs in the loft unlike that blogger that recently outed himself as a pirate whilst extolling the virtues of big hard disks :-) --- and us ps3 media server to deliver it up to the PS3, which is connected to my amp by optical digital. Seems to work nicely.

    5. Naughtyhorse
      Thumb Down


      personlly prefer small venues, went to see dylan at wembley about 20 years ago, but I was at the back, so it may have been dylan.... or donovan!

      it's ok for shit like u2 to squeeze 10,000,000 sheep in to a canyon in the mid-west to whine at. but if you want to hear, or see your hero then anything over 5,000 seaters are too big.

  5. Richard Porter

    CD/DVD distribution is all wrong

    We don't need big music/video stores with racks and racks of pre-recorded CDs and DVDs. Surely the technology exists to burn CDs and DVDs to order (including printing the artwork), or to download tracks to customers' media in the store? That would offer much greater choice in a vastly smaller space.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Phew, good job the digital economy act was hurried through parliament then. The industry is obviously on it's last legs.

    Oh hang on...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Misspent youth

      <old fart warning>

      Many years ago I would stand in my local record shop clutching hard earned cash from my pocket money/paper round/weekend job and just browse through the record racks until something caught my eye. The staff would then play the record for me and if it was good I'd buy it.

      I can see some merit in what you are proposing but it still sounds a tad sterile to me.

      1. Stevie Silver badge


        AND y'could actually see the artwork.

        AND read the lyric sheet.

        AND the playback equipment were sexier.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Then you know what to do then.

      Develop the idea and sell it to HMV. Or knock up a CD-o-Matic in your shed and get yourself on Dragon's Den.

      What are you imagining the browsing experience to be - like Argos with rows of catalogue style browsing devices (plus headsets for previewing)? How much floor space are you planning to devote to that? Will it use up as much space as saved by not having physical stock? Or will people queue to browse?

      What's the path from choosing your CD to getting it in your hands? While-u-wait? Get a slip and come back in an hour? How many burns will a shop be able to do in a day (ie compared to the number of traditional style sales that an equivalent but traditional HMV branch can knock out.)

      Don't forget to ignore people that come up with a stream of nitpicky awkward questions that appear to dampen initial enthusiasm. And don't forget to pay attention to detail - the devil will be in the detail.

      1. Stevie Silver badge


        Missing the point, AC, missing the point.

        If you'd read what was written instead of skimming and letting your superstore-conditioned brain do the detail work, you'd have understood what Mahatma was getting at.

        "Argos". "HMV". Christ on a bike.

        Have you considered that if you only buy what you know you'll never know anything new? That if you only cherrypick the tracks you want you'll miss what the artist was trying to show you with his/her/their album?

        Now go away and listen to your tinny iPod with its buzzy, compression artifact-loaded "music" while the adults talk shop. You already know everything there is to know so we'd just be wasting your time.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Best of Both Worlds

      To be honest there is a with of pungent nostalgia (for men) about the so called diversity to be found in the majority of high street record shops certainly from my day (1990s) onwards. Between surly staff and a centrally dictated product range the hunting for hidden gems could be less fun and less likely than is being claimed here.

      Though far from being as enjoyable as a nice long Saturday in the Virgin Megastore, you will find an online store providing more recommendations and greater convenience to try-out a bit of the album/movie/etc. In an ideal world we would have had high streets shops with a back-cat of some description with the latest and most popular items (as before) mixed in with access to a terminal providing an Amazon-like experience alongside the advice of serving staff. Burning copies for anything not physically in stock would be nice (and handy for Indie labels), but given the survey results it would have been even better for high street shops to serve as local depots for the online arm of the business as I've more than reached the end of my patience with relying on the post office getting me to call and collect my post because their delivery model is still based in the 1800s with the added inconvenience of bus-ing/driving out to some pokey sorting house.

      If only HMV and the like had bought out or at least bought in to Amazon... ah well.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    "Not one supermarket sold CDs in 2003..."

    Actually, I bought CDs from my local Tesco supermarket in 2000, so that's wrong.

    For me, the physical CD, with the scent and feel of a new album cover is a huge part of purchasing music, so the physical CD will remain for me. Although, I'm now considering purchasing DRM free.

  8. Red Bren

    Where does our money go?

    When I read this, I was hoping we were going to get an approximate breakdown of where the money goes across the musical supply chain, depending on the format. Just so we can compare who hurts the artists most - freetards or records execs.

  9. g e

    So, where's the figures...

    for what proportion went to artists?

    To embarrassing for them to release, at a guess.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Too embarrassing to release?

      ..that hasn't stopped some of the acts they sign up.

    2. Andrew Norton
      Dead Vulture

      errors you say?

      "Actually, I bought CDs from my local Tesco supermarket in 2000, so that's wrong."

      Of course it is, but just be Glad he's enabled comments on this one so you can actually point it out. I can, for instance, tell you exactly where the music departments are (or at least were) in 3 Asda's in Liverpool - Speke (former TR7 factory), Aintree (right by the racecourse) and Walton. That'd be pretty hard to do if Andrew was correct, since I've not set foot in Blighty since 2002.

      just for the record, 30 seconds of looking got my this article from 2006, which had this as the second paragraph

      "26.8% of CDs and 27.4% of DVD are now purchased through supermarkets, compared to just 15.2% and 12.0% five years ago, research by market information provider TNS shows."

      I found it when i was looking for a link to a story i remember reading years ago, that Eminem sold the majority of his 'music' through supermarkets.

    3. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      "for what proportion went to artists?"

      > 0%

      Which is all any freetard will guarantee the creator in the name of sticking it to "the man".

      Music publishers don't just shift CD cases. They arrange cover art and photo shoots, organise concerts, arrange for publicity, TV and radio interviews, radio airtime, and even provide you with loans and other stuff up-front if they think you're worth the risk. And that's before you account for the actual distribution.

      "Risk" is the important point here: publishers take a gamble on whether an artist will ever make them a profit. Many don't. Distribution is only a small factor in the total cost of developing an artist, hence the contracts and revenue split.

      If the musician is willing to do all that stuff himself, he'll get a much better deal. But most musicians suck at publicity, graphic design and logistics. The more you ask the publisher to do on your behalf, the more right they have to ask for a greater share of the profits.

  10. ChrisW
    Thumb Down

    Not sure about that...

    "Not one supermarket sold CDs in 2003"

    Are you sure? Or was the purchase of a copy of 'Now 34' from a local Asda back in '96 just a childhood nightmare?

    TD - not because of the article, but at my own taste in music, I worry some times I really do.

  11. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    The north-east...

    ... is heavily rural.

    Yorkshire and Northumberland are famous mainly because of their bleak, windswept landscapes and tiny, remote villages. You won't see many HMVs or massive Tesco stores in Cambois. You have to drive all the way to places like Newcastle or Gateshead first.

    Broadband penetration is also likely to be spotty at best.

    CDs are often impulse purchases, but you do have to be near a rack of them for the impulse to hit you in the first place.

  12. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  13. SonicLife

    cheap downloads

    "most digital albums can be downloaded in a few seconds for under a fiver"

    Really, where from? Not that I will be buying until they offer lossless for less than a CD.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Check your numbers

    "the average amount spent on music ...was £63 per head in 2008"

    "Age groups 12-19s and 20-29s spend the most"

    "12-19 year olds spent an average of £37.55 (down from £43.23)"

    " twenty somethings spent a tenner less per head in 2009 than they did in 2008: 20-29s spent £31.62 on average last year"

    Something here doesn't work out right.

    The average per capita spending was £63 in 2008 with 12-19 year olds spending an average of £43.23 and 20-29 year olds spending an average of £41.62.

    By this math these people can't be the highest spenders. Someone has to be higher to pull the full average over £60. Are we left to assume that the 50+ group is out there massively outspending everyone else? Or should we accept that a record industry drone is incapable of producing proper statistics?

    As for my statistics: I don't believe I bought any music last year. Just couldn't find anything good to buy that I didn't already have that was worth the percentage of my meagre salary.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twenty-somethings attend gigs

    Whilst it is a bit of a shocker that twenty-somethings are spending less on music I wonder how much of that cash is being redirected to gigs? Having grown up in the age of rampant piracy I know I can get whatever I want for free; but I do make a conscious effort to support the artists I enjoy in various ways, including going gigs. The more I spend on gigs the less (obliged) I feel to buy the actual music. I wonder how many more of my generation operate a similar philosophy.

  16. Tom 38 Silver badge


    ".. and pointless from the music industry point of view because they don’t seem to discourage legal music consumption."

    Discouraging legal music consumption is the aim of the game for record companies? Seems like they're doing it quite well.

    1. Hollerith 1

      I put my hand up

      As a 50+ person, I spend maybe £200 a year on music, both CDs and downloads.

      I buy what everyone says is dying out fast: baroque and classical. Yet I find independent labels and performer-owned labels all over the place (for example, Viktoria Mullova's label is her own: Onyx, and Shaham has also started his own label). Not at HMV, which on Oxford St London has reduced its classical to a feeble collection of 'these you have loved' mixed in with World music and which has now lost me as a customer, but at dedicated classical music websites and smaller specialist shops.

      I now have the income that I didn't have in my 30s and 40s and am indulging myself. I miss being able to go into a shop and have my eye caught by something interesting and new, but I am compensating by going to music discussion forums (such as and hearing the scuttlebut.

      As in the film 'Fried Green Tomatoes', the young may be prettier and trendier, but I am older, have more insurance and lots more money.

  17. Frank Bough
    Dead Vulture

    "Urban" Music?

    Is it coz they is black? This isn't the USA, FFS.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Want to actually support your favorite artists?

    Don't buy their CDs from stores, buy them when you go to their live performances. This goes double for independent artists. And if you must buy from stores, support your local record store, if you have one. Screw the big chains and labels.

  19. myhandle


    Although I will still buy cd's occasionally, after recently having purchased a bluray player, and in spite of loathing drm, I was recently looking forward to buying some bluray movies, only to get a real bitter taste in my mouth when I find that I am forced to watch several movie trailers each time I power up the disk and lost the ability to play from where I left off. This experience makes me feel quite shafted and whereas I may have become a born again media purchaser I now doubt very much if I will be buying very much, it's just too painful.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The main thing for me that physical CDs are cheaper- under eight quid. Quite a few sites charge more for 320k mp3, and then more again for wav/flac- at which point, you can often buy the whole album uncompressed on CD for the cost of three uncompressed tracks online.

    Obviously, if it's something not on an album, not available on a CD yet, or really new and must have, then I will buy it as a download. However, right now, prices are still too high, so CDs represent a better deal.

    Already this month, I have bought a couple (Hospital's Sick Music 2 and Split The Atom by Noisia), and would have paid a great deal more for even 320k mp3s of the tracks that I liked from those two.

  21. Kerberos


    I was a subscriber for about 6 months, but the fact the number of tracks on there appear to be dropping and it is missing too much stuff effectively forced me to cancel, returning to my minimal music buying ways.

  22. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    They spend £10 less per head on music because they pay £10 more per head on computer games?

    That is normally called "competition" but in BPI-speak it is known as "piracy".

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just because the BPI publishes some numbers...

    Doesn't make them true.

    In fact, with their past record...

    Stop printing press releases and interview someone who's independent.

  24. tranzophobia


    a) Why would I want to buy a product without any intrinsic re-sale value so for me it gotta be physical media.

    b) The majority of the CDs I buy are from marketplace sellers though Amazon, Ebay etc... so in most cases are second hand. It would be interesting to see how the second hand market has faired over the last 5 years.

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