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Politically and socially, the U.K. has just had one of its most turbulent years ever. But while nothing the music industry got up to could quite compare with the departure of the country’s longest-serving monarch (farewell, Queen Elizabeth II) and its shortest-serving Prime Minister (see ya, Liz Truss), the music biz still had more than its fair share of attention-grabbing moments.

So, as executives get ready for their first non-COVID-disrupted Christmas since 2019, Brit Beat counts down all the stories that got Britain’s VIP bars gossiping throughout 2022… in time-honored reverse order, of course.

10. PUBLIC (OUT OF) SERVICE BROADCASTING

One of the few advantages in changing government ministers every 15 minutes is that some of the previous incumbents’ more, um, interesting policies can be revisited. So, Boris Johnson’s administration’s surprise decision to privatize Channel 4 — greeted with fury and bemusement across the arts — now looks likely to be shelved. And the current government has also softened some of its predecessor’s antipathy towards the BBC, although the license fee funding model is still under review, while cuts are already impacting local radio and threatening its contributions to BBC Introducing, the influential platform for new artists. The music industry will be hoping that both the BBC and C4 survive longer than whoever’s in charge this week…

9. MEET THE NEW BOSS

Of course, it’s not just politicians that have been switching positions in 2022. The heads of U.K. trade bodies have also been playing musical chairs. A few highlights: #BrokenRecord streaming campaigner Tom Gray replacing Crispin Hunt as chair of songwriters’ body The Ivors Academy; Association for Electronic Music boss Silvia Montello moving across to be CEO of the Association of Independent Music; and Naomi Pohl stepping up to be General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union after Horace Trubridge stepped down. Meanwhile, the industry is still waiting to see who the new head of labels body the BPI is, after Geoff Taylor decided to leave after 15 years in the role. The rumor mill has been rife with speculation about who might take over, with the decision expected soon… Record labels have also been busy: EMI and Capitol U.K. merged under the joint leadership of Rebecca Allen and Jo Charrington and Polydor is continuing its recent run of stellar success under the sole charge of Ben Mortimer, after co-president Tom March headed to America to become president of Geffen Records. Most intriguing of all, this month Dipesh Parmar and Amy Wheatley of legendary dance powerhouse Ministry of Sound have shifted over to run Sony’s storied rock label Columbia Records. Should be interesting…

8. AVATARGET PRACTICE

The most surreal night out Brit Beat had this year was undoubtedly the ABBA Voyage premiere, held out in a purpose-built arena near London’s Olympic Park, surrounded by both pop and actual royalty. But any doubts as to whether Brits would actually pay to watch digital avatars (or, if you really insist, ABBAtars) of Sweden’s (pre)fab four singing their hits were soon dispelled in a puff of pixels, as the show proved a smash hit. With rave reviews and bookings recently extended through to November 2023, taking a chance on Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid proved to be a very good bet indeed. The only question that remains is: which veteran act will be the first to follow suit?…

7. 20/20 VISION

ABBA, of course, shot to fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in the U.K. in 1974. But few British entrants in recent years have gone on to anything except the musical scrapheap, with the nation’s somewhat fractious relations with our European neighbors leading to a flurry of “nul points” scores. This year, however, everything changed. Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra may have actually won with “Stefania,” but Britain’s Sam Ryder stormed to second place with the anthemic “Space Man” and, with a No. 1 album (“There’s Nothing but Space, Man!”) and a Foo Fighters/Queen guest appearance (at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert) to his name already, he looks set for a proper career. And with Ukraine unable to host next year’s contest for obvious reasons, the U.K. has stepped in as 2023’s hosts, with the ceremony set for May 13 in Liverpool. By next year, of course, everyone in Europe might hate us again but, until then, the British Eurovision dream is alive…

6. A PIAS OF THE ACTION

Independent giant PIAS also has European origins, but the company has long been a key part of the U.K. indie scene. Will that change now that the world’s biggest major label, Universal Music Group, has taken a 49% stake? Co-founders Michel Lambot and Kenny Gates insist it won’t. UMG and PIAS already had a “strategic alliance” in place and, while the duo admit they once saw the majors as the opposition, they’re adamant investment from a music company is preferable to the venture capital alternative. The two companies have already announced their first repertoire partnership, with Universal-owned Spinefarm Records now going through PIAS’ Integral services division, but the indie is at pains to point out that Universal doesn’t have a seat on the PIAS board. And, while the deal has raised plenty of eyebrows on the indie scene, if anyone knows how to weather a storm, it’s Lambot and Gates, who recently celebrated their company’s 40th anniversary. An interesting indie year lies ahead…

5. TO ADELE AND BACK

Adele has always been that rarest breed of British superstar: the one who hasn’t had any sort of backlash against them. Early in 2022, however, she faced an unusual amount of criticism. She began the year with the tearful, last-minute cancellation of her Las Vegas residency (leaving some British fans stranded on the Strip with nowhere to go), swiftly followed by uproar over the cost of (some) tickets for her London show in Hyde Park. But she won the fans over at that gig, and eventually returned to Sin City, where her “Weekends with Adele” show has been packing them in. Seems like Britain’s golden girl isn’t ready to lose her shine just yet…

4. FIELDS OF DREAMS

For the jewel in U.K. live music’s crown, we haven’t seen much of the Glastonbury Festival in recent years. Indeed, prior to 2021, it had only been staged once in four years – after a fallow year in 2018, the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the pandemic. But in 2022 it finally returned in all its glory: with Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar as its headliners, 210,000 people in the crowd and millions more watching on the BBC, it was the symbolic moment that said live music was getting back to something approaching normality. And, buoyed by the return, organizers Michael and Emily Eavis are forging ahead. Sir Elton John is already confirmed to headline next year in what will be the last show of his final U.K. tour, with rumors of some big rock names potentially joining him on the bill. Most ticket-buyers won’t really care who plays, however, so long as the festival itself is back for good…

3. FROM A WHISPER TO A STREAM

In Brit Beat’s 2021 round-up, we jokingly predicted the ongoing fallout from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee’s inquiry into the economics of music streaming might return to the top spot in this list in 2022. It didn’t, quite — but only because a recent DCMS Committee catch-up session revealed that the various working groups have made perilously little progress in the last 12 months. Some of the interested parties — the labels, mainly — are probably pretty happy about that, but the logjam is frustrating for the #FixStreaming and #BrokenRecord campaigners that looked to have the momentum last year. Things shifted in 2022: a Competitions and Markets Authority study of the streaming sector concluded it was working well enough for a full investigation not to be needed — although it did pass responsibility for any changes to artist and songwriter remuneration back to the government. Campaigners are now looking to put pressure on the government to find the “political will” to intervene with legislation, but given the current economic disarray gripping Britain, many insiders suspect the issue will remain in the long grass. Indeed, the only thing that seems certain is that we’ll probably still be talking about it at the end of 2023 as well…

2. BEATING AROUND THE BUSH

If you had a 37-year-old Kate Bush track becoming the hottest song in the world on your 2022 bingo card, then well done on being a better soothsayer than anyone else in the music industry. When “Running Up That Hill” exploded on streaming services after a judicious sync placement in Netflix phenomenon “Stranger Things,” it even caught the U.K.’s Official Charts Company off-guard. The song was denied the No. 1 spot by Harry Styles’ “As It Was” due to chart rules around streams for older tracks counting for less than those from new releases; an outcry ensued, and the song’s status was reset. It hit No. 1 a week later and went on to top charts all around the world. But Bush’s success also inadvertently highlighted the U.K.’s lack of new superstars capable of such global dominance. Our classic rockers are still in huge demand; the likes of Genesis and Sting signed off on massive catalog buy-outs this year, although the warring members of Pink Floyd have been unable to agree a similar deal for their recordings, despite there being a rumored half-billion dollars on the table. And while the established group of modern Brit superstars (Adele, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, et al.) are still smashing it on streaming, fresh worldwide breakthroughs have been in worryingly short supply. The only bright spot seems to be a return to the U.K.’s one-time ‘90s speciality: launching buzzy new alternative groups. Glass Animals hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Heat Waves,” Idles picked up a couple of Grammy nominations and Wet Leg was every awards ceremony and festival’s go-to indie act this year. But with increased streaming competition from Latin America, Africa and Asia, British biz insiders are hoping the next Ed Sheeran will be unearthed in 2023…

1. GOT LIVE – BUT DO PEOPLE WANT IT?

On the face of it, this was the year that U.K. live music came roaring back. After a quiet start as the country contemplated the Omicron outbreak, it enjoyed its first full festival season since 2019 and probably its biggest ever summer of live music, with multiple stadium shows operating across the nation at the same time. But the U.K. heads into winter with considerable concerns about the future of touring. A toxic cocktail of already-existing issues (Brexit, post-COVID staff and equipment shortages, venues struggling financially after two years of inactivity) has recently been spiked with the effects of Britain’s raging inflation rate and energy crisis. While grassroots venues have received some government help to keep the lights on as bills soar, organizations such as the Music Venue Trust warn such measures are unlikely to provide enough help in the long term. And while promoters, agents and artist managers — all grappling with soaring touring costs — tend to put on a brave face publicly, privately many tell Variety that ticket sales for shows outside of the very hottest tours are already under pressure. With another packed gig program booked for 2023, many expect further casualties if things don’t improve soon. Watch out, the U.K.’s cost-of-living crisis could easily become a cost-of-gigging crisis in 2023…