Happy New Year to all SVI readers from The Clarity Alliance, we hope you have a prosperous year.

To kick start the year, let’s take a look at the state of the music market. Just before Christmas our friends at the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) announced their figures for music sales in 2017 and it makes for very encouraging reading, which we hope may point to a successful year for hi-fi.

The rise in UK music consumption of 9.5% for 2017 ‘v’ 2016 is the biggest increase seen in this millennium, fuelled, according to the BPI, by a surge in streaming and resilient demand for physical formats. Home grown talent has also stood up well, with UK artists accounting for eight out of the top ten selling albums. And for the foot stomping, looping, guitar playing phenomenon that is Ed Sheeran, this has been a very good year: having the most streamed, most physically purchased and most downloaded album with “Divide”. And, remarkably, this is the 13thyear in a row that the best-selling album is from a British act.

The split of formats is worth a look too. Streaming now accounts for over half of the total UK music consumption, with over 1.5bn weekly streams happening in December. In total, there were around 68.1bn streams from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and the like. The increase over 2016 is impressive – up 51.5%, so it’s fair to say this is definitely going to continue as the music format of choice for UK consumers. Good news, surely, for manufacturers audio products that contain streamers?

So, what of good old vinyl? Well, it’s not quite at the levels of streaming, but there were 4.1m LPs purchased during the year. That’s another huge rise on the previous year, of nearly 27% and also represents a staggering 1892% rise in vinyl sales since 2007. Sales of vinyl is now at its highest level since the early 90s, with almost 40,000 albums released on vinyl in 2017. Vinyl represents nearly 10% of all physical music purchases. Presumably good news also for makers of turntables?

If CD is your thing and your business survives on the manufacture and sale of CD players, then fret not. CD still accounts for 31% of all music purchases, compared to vinyl’s 3%.

Will this help hi-fi sales over the next year, or are most music consumers using inferior quality streamers (e.g. their phones) and turntables (e.g. the £90 special from the supermarket)? We probably all know the answer, but what a great opportunity this presents us with to educate and get people to buy-up to something decent.

How do we find out what is selling in the hi-fi world at this time? For the answer we need to refer to our colleagues at GfK, the market data experts. And it just so happens that we’ve got just such an opportunity coming up at the Clarity Conference. 

On 15thFebruary, the UK hi-fi industry’s only annual conference takes place at Dolby’s London HQ. This magnificent venue has played host to the Clarity Conference for a few years now and is the perfect place to bring together the industry to learn about what’s been happening and what the landscape will look like over the next year. All members of the hi-fi industry are welcome to attend, whether members of the trade association or not. Entry is free of charge for members and a modest £50 for non-members – which is refundable against membership if you like what you hear at the event.

On the bill: GfK will bring us up to speed with the trends over the past 12 months, looking at which product categories have shown growth, which are in decline and what they predict will be the winners and losers during 2018. Will the pattern of turntable sales match the trends in consumer vinyl purchases, will CD players account for 30% of source sales, will streamers represent 50% of sales? Who knows? But if you want to find out, the only place you can get the answer is at the Clarity Conference.

Casting our minds forwards by five or ten years, Peter Aylett makes a popular return to the conference. He’ll be bringing with him all the latest consumer electronics and technology trends, fresh from the halls of the CES show in Las Vegas and ISE in Amsterdam. Speaking to Peter recently, I mentioned that it appears everything is going voice control and smart speakers and hi-fi needs to catch up. He tells me that for the people he speaks to, this is already old hat: ”They were talking about it five years ago”, replied Peter. So, what do these futurologists see as the next big thing? We’ll just have to wait and see on 15thFebruary.

There’ll be other guest speakers on the bill, talking on subjects of direct interest to the industry. Details can be found on the Clarity website at www.clarityalliance.co.uk and our facebook page at www.facebook.com/ClarityAlliance. Hope to see you there – just drop us a line to info@clarityalliance.co.uk if you’d like to come along.

The Clarity Conference is always preceded by the association’s Annual General Meeting. It’s at this point that the board of directors for 2018 will be decided, by a ballot of all members. We invite anyone interested in having a say and a direct influence in the direction of the hi-fi industry trade association, to put their name forwards for election to the board. If you’re not a member, you’ll have to join up, but there’s nothing to stop you from joining and immediately standing for election to the board – if you feel strongly that you want to help the hi-fi industry, then we’d love to have you on board.