Why Norway and the UK produce the world’s most valuable music fans


Ask those in the record business about the markets that really matter to the global industry’s bottom line, and they’ll tell you about ‘the big three’.

A few years ago, that would have meant the US, Japan and the UK.

But these days, it’s the US, Japan and Germany –  the outstanding trio in terms of annual cash spent on music.

Last year, across record sales, sync and performance rights, these nations generated $8.9bn between them, according to the IFPI.

To put this dominance in context, let’s look at the US alone.

In 2014, says the IFPI, the country’s record business attracted US $4.9bn – a third of the global business’s entire revenue.

The US haul was close to double the $2.63bn pulled in by Japan in 2014 and not far off quadruple Germany’s $1.4bn.

But here’s a bit of a shocker – the US market also turned over more than all of the following markets combined:

  • UK
  • France
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • South Korea
  • Brazil
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Spain
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Switzerland

[If you want to go really in-depth on the figures, MBW recommends picking up the IFPI’s Recording Industry In Numbers 2015 book.]

However, sheer brute size possibly isn’t the best indication of the true value of these countries for the record business.

Another way slice the pie is to investigate how much per person in each market is spending on music each year.

MBW has crunched the numbers of this per capita spend- dividing 2014 recorded music income in the IFPI’s Top 20 markets by the size of their population.

This tells us which music fans are really spending the most on records.

And it makes for a quite surprising list:

  1. Norway: $23.58 per person
  2. UK: $20.81
  3. Japan: $20.64
  4. Sweden: $19.75
  5. Germany: $17.42
  6. Australia: $16.26
  7. USA: $15.36
  8. Austria: $13.56
  9. Switzerland: $13.39
  10. France: $12.76

As you can see, Norway’s population, on average, shelled out US $23.58 on recorded music in 2014.

According to the IFPI, the Scandinavian country generated $119.9m from records last year – a spend driven by a population of just 5.084m people.

Brits can feel pretty chuffed with themselves, too. The UK market generated $1.334bn in 2014 – from a population of 64.1m people.

Germany may have overtaken the UK market in terms of revenue generation in 2011, but in terms of per-consumer spend, it’s more than $3 behind at $17.42.

And then there’s the other side of the story.

Those countries whose population – for a variety of economic, cultural and legal reasons – just aren’t pulling their commercial weight for the record business.

Below, you’ll find the sin bin of markets (in the world’s Top 20 biggest recorded music territories) whose per capita spend is the lowest.

It’s led by China; according to the IFPI, the 19th biggest recorded music market in the world, generating $105.2m in 2014.

But China also has the world’s largest population at 1.357bn people.

It’s a similar story in India (1.252bn people).

(Here’s an especially miserable stat about India, which generated just over $100m last year: according to the IFPI, subscription streaming revenue fell 42% in the country to $12.37m in 2014. Cash from free streaming? That grew 108% to $22.72m. Problematic.)

  1. China: $0.07
  2. India: $0.08
  3. Mexico: $1.07
  4. Brazil: $1.23
  5. Spain: $3.87
  6. Italy: $3.93
  7. South Korea: $5.29
  8. Canada: $9.74
  9. Belgium: $9.93
  10. Netherlands: $12.19

Note: All local currencies translated into US dollars at 2014 exchange rates

[Pictured: Jason Derulo’s Tattoos was the biggest-selling album in Norway last year.]Music Business Worldwide

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  • dinocelotti

    Interesting, but does anyone feel like doing the calc to see how these figures look as a percentage of GDP per capita or % of income per household? I think it will provide for a very different outcome. Where many the lower “Sin Bin” countries’ populations are living in poverty, not sure their priority will be to spend money on music.

  • dinocelotti

    Income is a little more complicated to find. But interestingly, the list order doesn’t change as much as I expected. I guess as we have more disposable income we tend to spend more of it on “luxuries” so the richest countries also spend a bigger chunk of their money on music. Interestingly, France jumps to #5, and Switzerland drops to #14 in terms of portion of GDP spent on music. (Used IMF 2014 Nominal GDP)

    • Tom Ritchford

      Ask a question – and then later provide an answer, good scholarship there!

    • Tim Ingham

      Thanks Dino!