Central Cee, KSI and Wolf Alice lead indie music surge

New BPI Yearbook reports on 2021's indie music surge, with a fourth consecutive year of growth

Artists like Central Cee, Wolf Alice, KSI and Wet Leg are at the forefront of an indie music surge, with independent labels' share of the UK music market having grown to just under 27% in 2021.

New analysis based on Official Charts Company data and published in the BPI's annual yearbook All About The Music 2022 proves the independent music scene's thriving, boosted by classic LP releases and an abundance of indie records hitting the Official Albums Chart.

The report reveals that independents' share of artist album sales reached 34.2% in 2021, thanks to albums including Central Cee's debut Wild West, Arlo Parks' Collapsed in Sunbeams and Wolf Alice's Blue Weekend.

MORE: The Official Top 40 biggest albums of 2022 so far

The collective share of music consumption in the UK attributable to independent labels rose to stand at 26.9% in 2021. This was up from 25.9% in 2020 and is markedly higher than the 22.1% figure registered in 2017.

Indie label share of artist album sales has grown by more than a tenth in just two years, increasing across every format, from 30.4% in 2019 to 34.2% in 2021. Their share of the UK vinyl market has risen even more sharply and in 2021 they accounted for four in every ten (39.5%) vinyl LP purchases – up from 33.9% in 2019.

The strong performance reflects a particularly successful year for independent artists, with 60 indie albums charting in the Official Albums Chart Top 10 (compared with 52 in 2020), including Number 1 albums from artists such as Mogwai, KSI and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, while new artists including Central Cee, KSI and AJ Tracey each racked up hundreds of millions of streams in the UK alone.

The enduring appeal of independently-released albums that have gone on to become classics now sees them finding fresh audiences thanks to streaming and sales of vinyl. Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 release AM was the biggest-selling indie album of 2021, while Adele’s 21 and 25 also powered the success of the sector.

This positive trend is continuing strongly into 2022, with highly-anticipated new LP releases from Wet Leg – which looks set to debut at Number 1 on the Official Albums Chart ahead of other indie artists Father John Misty and Jack White – AJ Tracey and Fontaines D.C., the growing momentum is likely to continue. 

MORE: The Official Top 40 biggest songs of 2022 so far

Official Independent Albums Chart 2021 Top 10

  1. Arctic Monkeys / AM (Domino Recordings)
  2. Adele / 25 (XL Recordings)
  3. KSI / All Over The Place (BMG)
  4. Central Cee / Wild West (Central Cee)
  5. Adele / 21 (XL Recordings)
  6. Arctic Monkeys / Whatever People Say I Am (That’s What I’m Not) (Domino Recordings)
  7. Wolf Alice / Blue Weekend (Dirty Hit)
  8. Bo Burnham / Inside (The Songs) (Imperial)
  9. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds / Back The Way We Came Vol.1 (Sour Mash)
  10. AJ Tracey / Flu Game (Revenge Records)

© Official Charts Company

Official Independent Singles Chart 2021 Top 10

  1. KSI / Holiday (BMG)
  2. Tom Zanetti / Didn’t Know (SIC)
  3. Adele / Someone Like You (XL Recordings)
  4. Central Cee / Commitment Issues (Central Cee)
  5. Central Cee / Loading (Central Cee)
  6. Arctic Monkeys / Do I Wanna Know (Domino Recordings)
  7. Arctic Monkeys / Why D’you Only Call Me When You’re High (Domino Recordings)
  8. Shouse / Love Tonight (Onelove Recordings)
  9. Adele / Rolling In The Deep (XL Recordings)
  10. Passenger / Let Her Go (Nettwerk)

© Official Charts Company

The BPI insights are based on Official Charts Company data and are taken from All About the Music 2022 – the 43rd edition of the BPI Yearbook, which is out now.

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Mohamed Enieb


Fatneek on top!