July 01st 2022

Blog: Further verification that Liverpool leads the way in terms of music creation

Liverpool’s Head of UNESCO City of Music, Kevin McManus, explains the recently published Music Industry Body (BPI) ‘All About The Music 2022’ report, and the significance of Liverpool and Merseyside as key contributors.

The UK has, for a long time, been recognised as one of the world’s leading music cultures with many of the highest selling global artists (Adele, Beatles, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys etc) hailing from our shores and of course delivering significant trade and income for the UK.

This is summed up in this quote from Geoff Taylor, Chief Exec of the BPI. He says: “Artistic talent continues to be developed and nurtured across all parts of the UK and it’s this rich diversity both musically and geographically, supported by record labels, that is the key to our global music status and should be protected and enhanced.”

The data behind this specific report, does however recognise that the North West actually leads the way for the UK. Of course this doesn’t surprise me at all, but its impressive to see in black and white that the region has actually been responsible for supplying 17 of the top 300 albums by UK artists in the last 12 months, with Liverpool leading the way as the leading city in the UK (outside of London).

Of course, there are some other cities mentioned lower down the list – Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester – but let’s not bother with those lesser cities and just focus on the incredible musical powerhouse of Liverpool ; )

UK’s leading 10 music locations in nations & regions outside London (source: BPI based on Official Charts data):

Pos.         Town/city

  1. Liverpool
  2. Glasgow
  3. Manchester
  4. Birmingham
  5. Brighton
  6. Bristol
  7. Sheffield
  8. Leeds
  9. Nottingham
  10. Wigan

Artists who contributed towards Liverpool’s victorious ranking this year included electronic music giants Camelphat, LIPA alumni The Wombats, an 80 year old fella called Paul McCartney who had  a hand in the creation of that institution, The Mysterines who I’m pleased to see are finally getting the recognition and success they deserve (a nice appearance on Jools Holland will hopefully have brought them more new fans), and the mighty Jamie Webster whose performance at Glastonbury last weekend was praised by festival-goers (not just the LFC fans either).

Leading UK music locations:

  • Liverpool – 9 albums (8 different artists including CamelPhat, Wombats, Jamie Webster, Mysterines & Paul McCartney)
  • Glasgow – 9 albums (9 different artists including Chvrches, Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai & Texas)
  • Manchester – 8 albums (6 different artists including Bugzy Malone,  Floating Points, Johnny Marr & Oasis)
  • Birmingham – 8 albums (8 different artists including Laura Mvula, M1llionz, Duran Duran & Joan Armatrading)
  • Brighton – 7 albums (7 different artists including ArrDee, Celeste, Lovejoy & Bonobo)

While Liverpool artists make up the majority of Merseyside’s output showing as the second biggest music county, there’s also contributions from Wirral band The Coral and Birkenhead’s Elvis Costello. The Coral reached No. 2 in May last year with Coral Island, while Costello had his highest-charting album in nearly 28 years with The Boy Named If.

Leading UK music counties/regions:

  • Greater Manchester – 14 albums (12 different artists including Bugzy Malone, Elbow, Lathums, Oasis & Richard Ashcroft)
  • Merseyside – 12 albums (11 different artists including CamelPhat, The Coral, Jamie Webster, Paul McCartney & Wombats)
  • West Midlands – 12 albums (12 different artists including Duran Duran, Jorja Smith, M1llionz, Pa Salieu & The Specials)
  • East Sussex – 9 albums (9 different artists including Arrdee, Bonobo, Celeste, Lovejoy & Rag’n’Bone Man)
  • Essex – 9 albums (9 different artists including Anne-Marie, Charli XCX, Damon Albarn, Dodie & Nothing But Thieves)

Of course, as the BPI report states, record labels based in cities outside London are absolutely vital in supporting local talent to grow and thankfully Liverpool is incredibly rich in terms of record labels and venues. If you look at Jamie Webster for example, he began his musical career by playing Liverpool football songs at the legendary ‘Boss Nights’ in the city and around the world, before Modern Sky (a label based in the Baltic) saw his incredible song writing talent and gave him the platform to increase his audience beyond the LFC faithful. His second album ‘Moments’ was released this year and reached the Top Ten, and is in my opinion, one of the finest records of the year. His performance at the Neighbourhood Festival this year was absolutely mobbed and it’s inevitable that he’ll only get bigger. A great songwriter and performer, Jamie follows in a grand Liverpool tradition of bringing a real political sensibility into his hard-hitting lyrics.

Modern Sky (and its imprint Run On Records) is on an incredible roll with huge success for local and locally based artists such as Crawlers (with a LIPA connection again), Red Rum Club, The Coral, and Michael Head (Dear Scott). Mick Head has an almost mythical status and is a genuine Liverpool music legend with a long and often troubled career taking in the Pale Fountains, Shack and now Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band. Dear Scott has just given him his first ever top ten record and it’s a beautiful record that sums up all that is special about one of our unique musical mavericks.

Modern Sky has had an exceptional year, which is why I have focused on them, but there are loads of other labels locally there doing amazing work, developing and providing a platform for young talent in the city region across all genres. 3 Beat Records for example has a long and distinguished history of producing hits for over 30 years now after beginning life as a dance music record shop.

At the opposite extreme you have relative newcomers like Nifty Records who have developed their own particular niche with local singer songwriters. We should also mention the wonderful Both Sides Records label which aims to support women and people from marginalised genders. Strictly speaking the label which came out of the Brighter Sounds charity isn’t located in the city, but label manager Grace Goodwin is based in Liverpool and their next release (due any time now) is from the magnificent local band Stealing Sheep.  Of course, there are lots of artists and managers self-releasing and achieving great results, including the likes of AMBA who just recently released their brilliant debut single ‘Shoulda Known’ with the support of Positive Impact and Culture Deck.

As well as boasting a range of labels, Liverpool City Region is also incredibly fortunate in that some key elements of industry infrastructure are on our doorstep in the shape of businesses like Sentric (music publishing) and Ditto (digital distribution), not to mention a range of excellent recording studios and mastering studios, and the incredibly skilled and passionate people who run these businesses and facilities. At root though these labels wouldn’t succeed if they didn’t have the talent to work with. Fortunately, we are a city that seems to have a never-ending conveyor belt of talent, but this talent still needs support and nurturing. That’s why schemes like our own LIMF Academy and other talent development programmes are important (look out for some Academy graduates performing at LIMF at the end of July).

I work closely with the Liverpool City Region Music Board and much of our focus is on how we can continue to support skills and talent development programmes that are accessible to all. But just as important to us is the need to ensure that there is a robust infrastructure (including record labels) in place in the city that allow the city’s music industry to continue to prosper and grow. There is still lots for us to do (the plans of the Black Music Action Group in particular are ambitious and exciting) but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the fact that Liverpool has been officially recognized as the UK’s number one music city.”

About the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) – bpi.co.uk