Music is a high note in Britain's balance of payments

Click to follow
Elton John, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins, the middle-aged men of pop, along with the Beatles, earned Britain more than £1.1bn from exports in 1993. The first detailed report on the overseas earning power of the music business found t hat its exports were double imports in value.

Net earnings of £571m put music on a par with the steel industry and ahead of the City as an export success story.

Ian Taylor, the trade and technology minister and a fan of Eric Clapton and Adam Faith as well as an opera buff, praised the industry's success as a high note for exports. But he expressed concern about counterfeiting. Referring to the US clash with China over music piracy, Mr Taylor said: ``The British music industry also suffers a great deal from this problem and we share many of the concerns about CD manufacturing in China.''

The report, published yesterday by the trade quango British Invisibles, commented: ``The UK's strengths in music-making have resulted not only in a lively and diverse cultural scene but also in significant economic success.''

The bulk of the industry's earnings in 1993 came from ``invisibles'' such as royalties and performance fees. They brought in £799m. Visible exports such as CDs, cassettes and musical instruments made up £359m of the £1.2bn total.

The recording industry was the biggest earner, making a net £323.8m.

Exports of recordings more than doubled between 1988 and 1993, reaching £260m, with spectacular growth in sales of CDs overseas. Imports of recordings rose 64 per cent to £158.7m.

The report points out, though, that record companies manufacture and sell recordings on an international basis, so the flows do not strictly reflect underlying demand for British music. The pattern depends on where the companies have their manufacturing plants and distribution centres.

Music publishing ranked second to recording as an earner, making a net £146m in 1993.

The only sector of the music business where Britain had a deficit was musical instrument manufacturing. In 1993 imports were £112.6m, compared to exports worth £86m.

Comparing the music business to television and film, the British Invisibles report pointed out that television accounted for a net trade deficit of £115m while the film industry had net overseas earnings of £208m. It argued that music's contribution was probably even greater than its figures suggested, if grey areas such as foreign tourists' visits to concerts, musicals and festivals are included.

Mr Taylor said: ``The British music industry is reaching people all over the world in a very tough competitive market and making a significant contribution to the British economy.'' His verdict on Pink Floyd was not as warm: deafening at their recent concert, he said.