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British artists made more money on vinyl than on YouTube last year

A report from the UK music industry's trade group derided a "fundamentally broken" music market.

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"Where is my YouTube check?"

WireImage via Getty

Video streams don't pay the bills.

That's the takeaway from a report on UK musicians' revenue in 2015 by the British Phonographic Industry, the record label association that promotes British artists including Adele and Sam Smith.

The number of views on YouTube and other sites was explosive last year, rising 88 percent from 2014, to 26.9 billion plays, BPI said. Yet, these ad-supported platforms produced "only a meager" 0.4 percent rise in revenue for British musicians to 24.4 million pounds.

To drive home just how tiny that amount is, the trade group noted that sales of vinyl records actually brought UK labels more money, at 25.1 million pounds. Compared with that 26.9 billion online plays, only 2.1 million LPs sold last year.

Audio streams through services like Spotify reached 27 billion plays and offered a 69 percent rise in revenue to 146.1 million pounds.

The report highlights the fraught relationship musicians and labels often have with streaming services, which can bring artists huge audiences but little income compared with CDs, records and downloads. Also, BPI's criticism comes as artists and labels are negotiating new licenses with YouTube.

"The fact that sales revenues dipped in a record year for British music shows clearly that something is fundamentally broken in the music market, so that artists and the labels that invest in them no longer benefit fairly from growing demand," Geoff Taylor, BPI's CEO, said in a statement.

In response, a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement:

For years, the music industry lost millions of dollars as piracy rates soared. Thanks to our rights management system, Content ID, rightsholders have complete control of their music on YouTube and can easily decide whether to have content taken down, or profit from it. Today, revenue from Content ID represents 50% of what we pay out annually. In fact, ad-supported music streaming enables revenue from an audience that has never before paid for music. As more advertising money comes online, this will grow to match consumption. Comparisons to other audio-only, subscription music services are apples to oranges.


Updated, 11:24 a.m. PT: Added YouTube's statement.