Soundscan May Only Be Counting 15% of Vinyl Sales

Could vinyl sales actually be multiples larger?

We’ve been quoting some heady gains from Nielsen Soundscan, but what if those figures are woefully undercounted? “Soundscan only gets about 15 percent,” Vince Slusarz of Gotta Groove Records just told the New York Times. “The majority of the stuff we press, it doesn’t even have a bar code.”

Wow: a 15 percent rate would imply that vinyl sales are actually 7 times larger than we think.  Sounds a bit extreme, and Slusarz could be wildly overcounting for obvious reasons.  Then again, vinyl is oftentimes sold in non-traditional outlets like indie retailers, merch tables, and small websites.  And, let’s not even get started on used vinyl, which makes the whole thing even more authentic.

But what are the Soundscan numbers, anyway?  Try 2.8 million LPs in the US last year, a figure growing about 40 percent this year.   Whether or not that’s closer to 18.7 million is an interesting question, though the bigger concern is whether this is all a fad.

But if vinyl (and other physical formats) are here to stay, we may be witnessing an interesting consumer preference for something tangible.  One reader calls it ‘the vinyl effect,’ which may simply be a reaction to an avalanche of digital intangibility.