It’s Official: Vinyl Sets Another Sales Record In 2012

You can dismiss it as a niche, but then again, everything starts (or, re-starts) as a niche.  You can brush it off as an inferior format, but then again, that’s usually where the debate begins.

According to stats shared with Digital Music News by Nielsen Soundscan, sales of vinyl LPs hit another, modern-era record in 2012 with 4.6 million units.  Most are being sold at indie retailers, with a heavy lean towards rock.  Here’s the latest sales picture.


31 Responses

    • Paul

      It’s US. Vinyl has also been increasing for five straight years in the UK, but I’ll need to check on the specific numbers. Anyone, chime in with other country-specific information if you have it.

  1. Spoken X Digital Media Group

    The ‘ Spoken Word Poetry Mall ‘ has delivered and published over (200) million major music and top independent tracks to every mobile phone manufacture world wide. Spoken X Digital Media Group get the Super Stars and major retailers to market on time. Although that’s not the predominant role of an internet record label, we constantly change the rules of the game an re-define the digital music publisher’s role and that’s why our net worth is (200) billion in USD on Wall Street. . .If you ask the right folks to verify my validity in numbers for the truth, they won’t give you that biigger number in U.S.D cash. Digital Music News is not real without the participation of the Legend of the X. It’s not American money—I’s Literati money: Bloomberg can’t even build a floor for you inside your imaginary HD TV set. . . Take one step and one trillion will vanish before your first toe hit the hollow–fiction of this place called Earth.. .

  2. Vinyl_Vs._iVandals

    Although it’s great to see this chart and read about it on Digital Music News, the post could have done without the link in the first line entitled “debate begins”.

    Imagine if the music industry could make just as much money with little to no investment in a physical meduim . . . that’s why the link is there. Now imagine the profit margin if you owned a restaurant and didn’t have to pay for the food you serve.

    We’ve all seen the charts that show how much an artist stands to make in digital music sales – it’s merely a sliver of a pie chart. Digital Music News recently and ironically published a post about the members of Grizzly Bear (a band of huge following) not being able to afford health insurance. The band claims that they make most of their money on the road and very little from album sales and almost nothing from non-physical digital platforms like Spotify. This is more than just sad, it’s an injustice. Even a few of the commentors in the “debate begins” link make snarky comments like “when I actually pay for music” referring to their music collections or lack there of. So what’s the bottom line here? We want music – yep. We want musicians – yep. We just don’t want musicians (like Grizzly Bear) to make the living they justly deserve being in a band with only four members who open for legends like Radiohead and who are adored by hundreds of thousands of fans. That’s a shitty message.

    As a music lover, I will gladly admit that the industry is about a crooked as a cheap nail. As a musician, I celebrate the increase in vinyl sales because it signifies that people care about the artists and recognize the cold and impersonal lack of attachment to non-physical, often illegally obtained formats. Who the hell invites people over to their home to listen to all the digital music he/she has stolen and stored on their hard-drive? Nobody does. Instead they say, “hey, bring your flash drive over so you can rip 60 albums in 5 minutes and then we can illegally stream that movie we’ve been wanting to see. You know, the one that’s still in the theaters.”

    Vinyl is more than a superior medium as far as sound is concerned – it’s a pastime. It’s something to do. Grabbing a six-pack and going over to a friend’s house to spin records has been an actual activity for decades and with that activity comes an education. Go ahead, ask someone with a hard-drive instead of a music collection what labels their favortie bands are on. They don’t know and who could blame them? It’s much easier to remember actual words, names and logos than it is to remember a bunch of 1’s and 0’s.

    A huge portion of society already suffers from chronic entitlement issues (or “theft” in ancient terms) here in our newfound digital era, so why feed it by sticking that link in an article that supposedly celebrates the physical format of music? Remember, if the industry cuts out the physical format, it benefits the industry more than anyone else. Celebrate vinyl. Celebrate CDs. Celebrate anything that helps the artists you are currently enjoying.

    • Paul Nigel Harris

      Couldn’t agree more…I buy CDs to support musicians, newspapers to support journalism, and PBS to support intelligent review and commentary on what’s happening in this increasingly corporate-driven world.

    • jw

      I’m not sure you’re accurately representing the digital music consumer.
      Just last weekend, when I was in my hometown for the holidays, I picked up the Anthology of Tom Waits and Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (at the recommendation of the store owner) on vinyl, but then I went & had lunch with a buddy & we sat in my car for an hour & listened to music I streamed from my phone. For most of those artists (the Menahan Street Band, the New Mastersounds, Lee Fields & the Expressions, etc.), not only would I not know their label, I probably wouldn’t even know they existed if not for streaming music (to be fair, though, I also played music I had discovered through Memphis public radio or even traditional media). But the truth is that I know a lot more about music, both old & new, thanks to digital music & streaming. I really don’t see why that communal element has to be lost in the transition. Also anecdotally, I went to a holiday party & vinyl hung on the walls, but everyone took turns hooking up their phones & the party was dj’d that way. I had a short conversation about Andy Warhol’s artwork for Sticky Fingers, but getting turned onto Delbert McClinton through someone’s phone was a far more valuable experience to me. What’s more, when I got back to Memphis I posted a Spotify track (the Temperance Movement’s Only Friend) on one of my hometown buddies’ facebook page, which he can stream directly to his phone 8 hours away. That’s awesome. I feel more connected to people through music than ever, & I don’t think that’s uncommon.
      Suggesting that artists will never get more than a penny per stream is just conjecture. If Spotify’s premium plan were packaged with AT&T & Verizon’s wireless subscriptions (averaging their $10 & $5 plans at $7.50 & multiplying by 200 million subscribers), the industry would be an $18b/year industry. Those kinds of numbers aren’t unreasonable, it’s just a matter of increasing subscriptions, whether it’s by packaging streaming at the provider level, by increasing the value (i.e. fidelity, artwork/liner notes features, etc.) of the premium service, or limiting the features of the free service. I’m hoping for an industry that’s more vibrant & more varied than it ever was, & I don’t really see that materializing without streaming.
      Honestly, yeah, it’s great, that folks are buying vinyl, & sure, that does indicate that they want to support artists. But what about music fans who are paying $120/year for Spotify premium? Just because that money is currently subsidizing free users doesn’t make those people any less fans, just because it doesn’t benefit you directly (yet, anyways). And I would wager that a lot of the folks paying for premium streaming are the ones (like myself) who are also buying that vinyl. It’s not mutually exclusive.
      If the industry is going to dig itself out of the hole it’s in, industry players & artists alike are going to have to look towards the future & make smart business choices, but before that’s even possible we all have to have a realistic picture of what the present looks like, & that involves conceding to all of the benefits of streaming. Modern music consumption isn’t all hard drive swapping. Honestly, I’ve never even heard of anyone I know swapping hard drives unless someone’s iPod was stolen or something like that. But these days I don’t even know anyone who owns an iPod. Except for my mom.

      • Antinet

        Congrats on your experiences. They don’t provide a rational for the rip-off techies who run the likes of Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, their brethren on the visual content side like Getty, Corbis, iStock, and their mega-corporate backers like Clear Channel to get rich off the sweat of others.
        I’m so tired of people’s colloquial BS being used as an excuse for a slavery-level business model to continue.
        Vinyl is up, and cheers to it. Sorry if you’re looking at it and not spinning it. Honestly, who cares that you know Warhol did Sticky Fingers. BFD.
        Bands with balls will be playing shows, selling merchandise at shows, getting on REAL radio, and selling units through all media. What they wont be doing is licensing their work to streaming criminals, and the fans will understand and be forced to seek out the material they need to listen to, just like fans did for decades. If the material is good enough, work of mouth will dictate the medium. Streaming could be useful if it wasn’t owned by ripoff artists, like all the copyright jockeys I mentioned, who are also facing their own grassroots rebellions, because only suckers give their work away for free.

        • jw

          Obviously you don’t see the longterm potential of the premium-to-free ratio turning over, & the money that streaming could potentially yield. And it doesn’t seem like there’s anything I can say to convince you that we’re in a transitional period & that streaming music is the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’ll give it the old college try, anyhow.
          Like you, I’m tired of the diatribes of short sighted, anti-technology revisionists, intent on keeping a dying model alive. The vinyl resurgence, as much as anything, just shows that digital downloads, just as CDs did, are losing appeal. The era of the walkman ended, the era of the discman ended, and the era of the iPod is coming to an end. People don’t want to clog up their iPhone with a bunch of mp3s.
          Spotify’s payouts aren’t a reflection of their greed, they’re a reflection of premium subscriptions subsidizing free use in order to facilitate a mass transition from an ownership mentality to a subscription mentality. If anyone is ripping anyone off, it’s the same record labels who have been ripping people off since the dawn of the recorded music industry.
          What I’m advocating is not a threat to you in the longterm. What is a threat to you is disappearing record stores. Shrinking music sections at retail. The rise of talk radio. Consolidation of terrestrial radio. The expansion of cable television. The smart phone replacing the personal music player. What you’re idealizing is a system that fit into people’s lifestyles at the time, but it’s those lifestyles that have disappeared, & companies like Best Buy & Target & Wal Mart recognize that because that’s exactly what they do, & they stock their shelves accordingly… if that doesn’t open your eyes to the futility of the old model, I don’t know what will.
          Im sorry that you seem to have had some bad experiences as a stock photographer, but don’t take it out on me. I’m just an avid music fan… I buy vinyl, I pay for my streaming, yadda yadda. But good luck selling your cds on Amazon through word of mouth. Maybe you’ll be the next Adele or Taylor Swift.

    • Steve

      I agree with alot of that….but why do you think Radiohead qualifies as a ‘legend’?

  3. Ms. Poon

    There is a limit to how much sales can continue grow with this format. Pressing plants are already running 24×7, turnaround times are now 2-3 months, and no one is making new pressing plants.

    • Pressing

      That’s not an entirely true statement. There are a number of pressing plants that I’m aware of, both in the US and abroad, which are not running 24×7 and have lead times much shorter than 2-3 months.

    • Versus

      If demand keeps growing, then someone will open a new pressing plant…
      – V



  5. Tim

    I’m sorry to say that this is absolute rubbish. In the 90s and early 00s vinyl sales were huge, with DJs being the main buyer of the format. Artists could see sales of 3000-5000, easily, just from self pressed white labels. The majority of these were sold in independent record shops and the releases weren’t chart elligible, so figures were never officially reported back.
    Just because the official chart company or the other “official” collectors of sales figures are reporting an increase (most of which is an increase in 7″ singles aimed at a specific target market) does not make this headline true. You really want to know if overall vinyl sales have steadily increased? Ask the owners of the hundreds of record shops that have closed down, or the many distribution companies that have gone bust. Or ask Juno or Hard To Find Records (two of the biggest record shops in the UK) if their sales report the same. I think you’ll find that very few, in the industry, would agree with any of these reports that are made every year.

  6. Rob Duskey

    This just means the 8 major vinyl pressing plants in the country are increasing their business. Doesn’t mean the artists themselves are gaining anything from pressing to vinyl other than trying to look cool.

    • Versus

      Actually, isn’t it the case that the artist margin on vinyl is higher than on any other format? I see artists sell out their vinyl at shows for $15-20 each, whereas the CDs languish unwanted.
      – V


    I’m at once excited and intrigued after reading the comments and replies here. To the point, I recorded a vinyl LP “georgie only me” some 35 years ago which is now being auctioned on line as a collector vinyl for as much as $45.00. The only royalties I ever made were from airplay via BMI as the artist/writer/publisher of the songs.

    Shindig! Magazine’s Quarterly No.3 ran a feature article about me and the LP about a year ago. The response was exhilarating to say the least. As a result, I digitally mastered the original tapes and created my own site, from which I now earn more from the sale of hard copy CDs and 320k mp3 downloads than I ever did for the vinyl version.
    Notwithstanding the classic appeal of vinyl LPs, the uncompressed clarity and tonal quality of a high resolution acoustic CD is incomparable.