Record sales: vinyl hits 25-year high

While streaming may be the dominant form of music consumption, vinyl is seeing an impressive renaissance among music consumers. Sales of vinyl in 2016 reached a 25-year high as consumers young and old have once again embraced physical formats of music. The numbers for 2017 are even better. Nielsen Music reported that sales of vinyl increased 3.1 percent through the first nine months of the year compared to 2016, with 9.35 million discs sold through September compared to 9.07 million during the first nine months last year. This gives vinyl 16% of the physical album sales market – its highest share in the post-CD era.

Michael Fremer, editor of and senior contributing editor of the music and audiophile site Stereophile, says he thinks album sales far exceed what Nielsen reports and could reach 27 million units this year. In other words, he said, the industry is doing even better than people think.

And this trend is global – vinyl sales in Japan have rocketed over the past four years and the country’s sole vinyl-pressing factory is unable to cope with demand. The Japanese arm of Sony Music announced it would open its own record-pressing plant in March next year to cope with the huge demand for vinyl in the country.

It is a similar story in Europe, where most vinyl for major and independent labels is pressed by just two plants, GZ media based in the Czech Republic, and Record Industry in the Netherlands. However, their combined capacity of more than 100,000 records per day is not enough to keep up with global appetite.

According to Toddrick Spalding, the Director of Music at the trailer production agency Mob Scene, there are countless reasons why vinyl is superior to any other music listening format, and this is why we are seeing the boom in its sales. The most important ones are fidelity, romanticism and ritualistic nature of the experience. “Listening to vinyl is a physical act – it’s an active choice to go to the rack and pull out a record from the sleeve and then eventually flip the side to continue listening. It physically forces you to interact, contrary to telling Alexa to play a playlist on Spotify.”

Many of today’s consumers just want to own something that they can hold in their hands. The 12 x 12 artwork is another massive draw. Will future generations care for vinyl? Spalding’s 7-year-old son, Salinger, may be a great indicator for continued growth. He has his own record player and collection. It’s easy to purchase a record player today, so the barrier of entry isn’t a big one.

There are also growing subscription-model businesses like Vinyl Me, Please, which delivers a new special edition vinyl album to your door every month. Another modernization on the classic industry is the annual Record Store Day (April 22 this year), which is hosted by local record labels and record stores across the country to celebrate and sell vinyl.

For those looking forward to perusing a record store, finding what they want, unwrapping the plastic, taking a dedicated moment to listen to music, reading the “Thank You” section and admiring the artwork, vinyl provides an unmatched and intimate experience.

It may not be a coincidence that the vinyl resurgence in 2008 coincides with the launch of Spotify. In many ways, vinyl is like the print industry. As streaming continues to grow (and change), there will always be a market for the powerful emotional impact of something tangible, especially with a nostalgic tie.

Don’t forget your vinyl record will need UPC/EAN Barcode if you want any local or online store to stock it.