Britain’s trade deficit may be widening but there is at least one sector in which the country boasts a healthy surplus: music streaming.
British artists “export” two Spotify streams abroad for every song by an overseas musician streamed by users in the UK, according to the company’s internal data. About 80 per cent of British artists with music on Spotify receive a majority of their plays from international fans.
Britain is one of only three net exporters of music, alongside the United States and Sweden, according to previous analysis of songwriting royalties. The new Spotify data shows how the rise of streaming as a dominant form of music consumption is making it easier than ever for British acts to gain international fame, a phenomenon dubbed “playlists without borders”.
“The old rules about how to grow an artist around the world do not apply,” Will Page, Spotify’s director of economics, said. He described the geographical data as “absolute gold” to artists.
The streaming platform is notoriously private about its internal data but music industry executives were given access at an event in London last year.
Spotify launched in Sweden in 2008, allowing users to stream music online rather than pay for downloads. It now has 191 million active monthly users worldwide. More than 20,000 new tracks are uploaded every 24 hours, according to Daniel Ek, the co-founder.
British artists on Spotify receive four streams from overseas listeners for every one from domestic fans, the figures showed. Artists can access detailed geographical breakdowns of who is listening to their tracks, allowing them to capitalise on unexpected surges of popularity in specific markets.
For instance, Spotify data revealed that Rex Orange County, the stage name of Alexander O’Connor, 20, from Surrey, received an increasing number of streams from Asia last year. This was driven in large part by Spotify users in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, where his tracks were enjoying particular success.
Previously, British acts would set out to break particular countries, notably the US, with a relentless schedule of tour dates and expensive campaigns. Now they are able to respond to data-driven evidence of where their music is causing a buzz. The data is also being used by bands to select their support acts on global tours.