Still a Fad? Vinyl Sales Up 30 Percent Over Last Year…

Downloads are slipping. Albums are tanking. Streaming pays nothing. And t-shirts are bullsh*t.

Which brings us to vinyl LPs, whose sales are not only increasing, they are accelerating.  According to stats released this morning by Nielsen Soundscan, LP sales are now jumping 30 percent year-over-year, which means the updated projection looks something like this.


Any questions?

47 Responses

  1. Lynch

    Why do you think this is? It’s obviously not a fad at this point.
    I parted with my vinyl collection years ago and switched to subscription streaming. And while I still have my entire collection on streaming services, I’ve found myself building a collection of all my favourite records (new and old) all over again. Just ordered the recent QOTSA and Arctic Monkeys records this week. Wish I had an answer as to why I even do it personally, but I don’t.

    • Yves Villeneuve

      Because you are one of the older music nerds, more likely.
      Music nerds comprise a small minority of the population, young and old. No more than 10% of the population, 30% if you believe Spotify.

      • Lynch

        Actually, I’m in my mid-twenties. And while the greater portion of my generation is still downloading albums illegally, there are plenty who find a healthy balance of streaming/downloading as well as purchasing physical products. I’m by no means a crate digger, or have an extensive collection of records. My primary source for listening to music is still paid streaming, but there’s something to be said about having a copy of one of your favourite records and being able to listen to it in quality. There are plenty of my generation who still agree.

        • Yves Villeneuve

          Definitely, physical product is still relevant. In the USA, 78 million CD buyers mostly versus 45 million downloaders versus less than 4 million out of pocket paying subscribers.

          • Tune Hunter

            Most of your 45 downloader’s comes from the 78 million group! Old school well to do folks.
            Problem is that their kids, also those with unrestricted household budgets, go to freeloading.
            This is the case for my family.

          • Tune Hunter

            .. freeloaders 12 to 35 supported by Shazams an the Tube generate most of use and abuse of music!

        • hank alrich

          I was talking with John Kunz, proprietor of Waterloo Records in Austin TX earlier this year. He commented that the vinyl resurgence had been a boon to his store and to physical product music stores all over the world.

          Then he said that it also is the most powerful “generation bridge” he’d ever seen, as a high school girl discovers that her mom has all the Led Zep LP’s, a teenage guy finds out that his grandfather was way into Jimi Hendrix, and has all the LP’s, etc.

      • GGG

        Dude, you really need to stop saying this. Look at Spotify numbers. Look at the number 1 songs. They mirror mainstream music exactly. You think music nerds are the ones streaming Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry and Lady GaGa?
        And the hundreds of millions of people that stream of YouTube are all music nerds?
        Get a clue.

        • Yves Villeneuve

          Music nerds are high frequency music consumers and are more likely to pay for Premium streaming subscriptions versus streaming YouTube/Vevo videos.
          Yes, music nerds are streaming Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga on Spotify very frequently because they are not all snobs like you are.
          Look at Spotify’s past annual reports. Last mention they said had 80 million registered users and claim only 30% were active(more like only 10% when correct measuring method is used).
          Last I checked Sporify reported 6-7 million non-ad supported subscribers worldwide. Many of these subscribers are inactive, 70% if you believe Spotify but more likely 90%, because they tried the Premium service through a free telecom bundle upgrade and decided it was not for them but remained a subscriber paid for by telecom investors.
          In all, in an apples to apples comparison, Spotify has a maximum 3-4 million active entirely ad-supported subscribers. Meaning, maximum 11 million paying and ad-supported supported subscribers with an asterix since many are inactive because of the free telecom Premium bundle upgrade.

          • GGG

            90% of what you just said is pure speculation on your part because you can’t handle the truth some some random person in bumblefuck America enjoys streaming music.
            What has failed Spotify is their marketing and outreach.

    • Michael Fremer

      Vinyl played back properly sounds much better for whatever reason or reasons. It better holds your attention and in 40 years kids now who take care of their records will have a useful artifact that will still sound great and better than any digital format and they will remember where they were, what they were doing, who they were dating. NO one will say in 40 years “I remember where i was when I downloaded (whatever). Kids are starting to get that. It’s no different than books. Kindle etc. is great but some books you just want to own and have…. it’s not about “hipsters” and citing download numbers versus vinyl is about as dumb as comparing McDonald’s to gourmet dining. Yes the numbers are much smaller for the better eating but SO WHAT?

  2. GGG

    Not a fad, but certainly won’t take over as the main way to consume music. Would not be surprised if it grows steadily for a while, though. Especially if a good % of kids in like middle school now see it as the cool thing once they hit high school and college.

    • FarePlay

      Is it happening more often or is it just that I’ve been commenting here for so long that I’m just more aware of it.
      The post is about vinyl, not Spotify or streaming and Yves you’re going to need a rear view mirror for that bicycle if you keep back pedaling so furiously.

      • GGG

        I think it’s happening more. At $20 a pop I don’t think it’s just the same small group of people buying more, I think it’s a growing demo that buys them for a few reason. 1) people do want a physical product and a vinvyl is much more of a souvenir than a CD 2) It’s cool 3) legit audiophiles and/or people who want to be audiophiles 4) some more DJs wanting to bust out vinyl 5) music became so impersonal there’s a reactive trend. Sort of like the whole folk trend now with Mumford, Lumineers, Avett Bros, etc. It’s reactive trend to electronic and beat heavy pop music.

        • FarePlay

          Vinyl appears to be crossing all genres. As I pointed out in a later post, Daft Punk has sold nearly 20k LPs of their latest release, including 6% of first weeks sales…..
          And yes, looks like vinyl releases will continue to grow, there’s certainly no shortage of people into music and easy inter-connectivity between PCs and turntables.
          Seriously cool, relatively inexpensive holiday gift with loads of personality and charisma for someone with the right gear.

      • GGG

        Easy sailor. You’re taking a lot more meaning out of my statement then is there.
        As for me starving artists…I guarantee you I spend significantly more money a year on music than you do. So you can get down of your high horse.

        • Clive

          Dude, google “Michael Fremer” and see what you find. You don’t spend more money on music than him. None of us do (though my wife would tell you that I’m defintely trying).

    • Michael Fremer

      Who cares if lousy sounding downloads are ‘more popular’? This is not a popularity contest. Who cares if more people use Windows than Mac OS? Look at who uses Mac and who uses Windows. Creative people mostly use Mac. Accountants use Windows. Even that’s changing but the cultural point is NOT based upon mere numbers.
      It’s amusing to see how defensive the Spotify lovers are. Why are they threatened by vinyl? And they clearly are because whenever a story like this shows up they are there to call vinyl lovers names like ‘hipsters’ etc. and ‘inform’ them that what they think better really doesn’t…even though these folks have mostly never heard good vinyl playback or probably any vinyl playback.
      Me? If like to download low rez files and love them good for you! If you like to stream low rez music and starve artists good for you.
      That’s not me. But good for you!

  3. AnAmusedGeek

    Maybe knowing what albums are being bought would help determine how long it will last ?

    If its mostly ‘oldies’ – maybe it a nostaglia thing…
    if there’s a lot of ‘new’ music being sold on LP – maybe its a ‘cool’ thing ?

    • Danwriter

      Here’s Nielsen/Soundscan’s 2012 top-ten vinyl sellers. Leans decidedly towards artists that are newer, though with a slight edginess — There is no Katy Perry, Gaga or Taylor Swift here. (And no Kanye, for that matter.)

      2012 Top Ten Selling Vinyl Albums


      9 21 / ADELE
      10. BON IVER / BON IVER

  4. _justen_

    I wonder how closely the jump in growth correlates to the first vinyl + MP3 offerings. I my experience it has become easier to find the dual format both in brick and mortar and online retailers, but it wasn’t an over-night shift. The combined distribution would seem to be a boon for any market or demographic as it buffs much of the risk of buying vinyl, namely, lack of portability and/or equipment.

    • AnAmusedGeek

      ” I my experience it has become easier to find the dual format both in brick and mortar and online retailers”
      Thats pretty cool – sort of a ‘best of both worlds’ approach…
      I haven’t seen anything like this around here yet. Do you get the cover art and all the fun stuff ? Is this for ‘oldies’ or new stuff ?

      • GGG

        It’s bands sticking a DL card in the vinyl. So it theoretically comes with whatever art/data they stuck in the download. I don’t think I’ve seen older titles being repackaged this way, might be wrong, but if you go look at this week’s new vinyl releases I imagine the vast majority of them will include a DL card or code.

        • AnAmusedGeek

          Ahh..that explains it…I thought it might be something I’d see at Fry’s Electronics or Target or something.
          I actually don’t think we have a ‘real’ record store around here…

  5. SP

    Bit tired of seeing these supposedly earth shattering headlines and statistics about vinyl. This “scrape the surface ” journalism never talks to the vinyl record store owners and just how hard it is to stay in business because of so many other factors like rent, insurance, shipping etc.
    The fact that major labels are deciding to press more vinyl is only because they make a larger margin on physical product. What is actually happening is that the real vinyl collectors cannot get stock of the more truly vinyl centric releases because the manufacturing process is backed up by the majors pressing pop records for hipsters.
    The fact of the matter is record stores are still going out of business because they cannot compete with the way Amazon low balls pricing on vinyl sales. Real vinyl centric labels cannot make a profit because of the economies of scale that they have to use to manufacture records.
    A more enlightening article about vinyl sales would be appreciated. It needs to do more than compare YOY sales by soundscan that does not even contemplate 90% of the real vinyl sales.

    • Rolandkreed

      There are plenty of interviews with recod store owners on the net if you really want to find them. Those owners a pretty estatic these days

  6. Visitor

    To get away from the sales aspect of vinyl, it really surprises me that when people listen to vinyl,do they really know what they’relistening to?
    Vinyl had a certain sound and warmth because it was all from an analog signal path. Now most albums have digital signal paths and the sound of the vinyl when you put them together and compare is not the same. Also are these new vinyl users are these baby boomers buying a vinyl? Where the stereo stores?
    what are people listening to the vinyl on? High-end stereo equipment? I hope vinyl does come back for real but I have way too many questions about it right now and it’s also very expensive to make. If an album is 60 minutes long you need to make a double album.
    I’m sure this will be a continuing conversation

    • hank alrich

      There are stacks of boxes of new turntables at Waterloo Records in Austin TX. Kids are buying those, too.

  7. blahblahblah

    Pretty sure that a big reason vinyl sales continue to increase is that over the past five years or so labels, especially indie, have been releasing more albums on vinyl and both indie and major have been re-issuing more. There are more vinyl titles available to be bought. Also, I think that a large percentage of people buying vinyl are big enough fans of that artist to want the biggest and best collectible format. They probably play the record once, if at all, and listen on their smartphone from then on. Actually, this theory can also apply to CD sales as well. A lot of them are bought by people who like the artist enough to have something physical. The rest are going to folks who haven’t bought a computer yet. : )

  8. FarePlay

    No question that releases by Bob Marley, The Doors, led Zep, Pink Floyd, etc. have continued to sell every year for the past 35 years and contributing significantly to the sale of vinyl. If I’m not mistaken “Abby Road” has historically been a best seller and the latest Daft Punk LP sold nearly 20k units.
    And yes, teenagers are buying vinyl. And yes, it is a rapidly growing niche segment of recorded music sales. Still…..
    And as complete works, not just digital download singles and not just by baby boomers. Unlike today’s fast food approach to making and selling music, and all “culture” for that matter, the reverse marketing of music today, driven in large part by online piracy, has made it all but impractical for bands to spend big budgets recording in the studio.
    As an example Springsteen spent nearly a year straight in the studio recording the tracks for “Born to Run” and redefining his sound in the process. His manager, at the time, Mike Appel, mortgaged his house after Columbia Records stopped paying the for the recording sessions.
    if you’re familiar with those recordings, the transformation over a years time was nothing short of amazing. Springsteen wasn’t fine tuning, he was discovering who he was and what his music would sound like for decades to come.
    does that, would that happen today?

    Sent from my iPad

  9. hippydog

    Compare this graph to merch sales, and i will predict they will be pretty close (follow the same path)

    The LP is now the ultra-cool merch.. you get something to collect and it comes with the music 🙂 .. The big cover, the liners, and taken care of it can last for decades. win win win..
    as to it being a fad?
    thats a tough question. it could easily turn into a standard merch item like stickers and t-shirts, etc, but used for special song versions for the fans (so has a much higher value)

    • FarePlay

      Merch Sales? You mean t-shirts?
      And just think you almost got that in there under the radar. Not so fast.

      • hippydog

        yes, Merch, like, but not limited too, items like t-shirts..
        since 2007, the amount of items that bands have had to sell have increased..
        Basically, the whole “fan club” experience is even more important, and I’m guessing, but It kinda looks like vinyl has become a part of that..
        My point is: its not a ‘bad’ thing, and as merch goes its probably one of the BETTER items for artists to use..
        but saying “hey look! vinyl sales are up!” is kinda like saying “hey look! T-shirt sales are up!”
        kinda meaningless in the scale of things.. 🙂

  10. Robert Benson

    Vinyl is what people like, it’s that simple. I love the fact that there is a new generation of vinyl lovers, the format will survive and thrive this way. Look at the best selling vinyl, I am 56 and I am not buying the top selling vinyl (Daft Punk) I see no need to argue the merits of any format, different strokes for different folks. But as a vinyl lover, you can never take the excitemnet and enjoyment that I get when I drop the needle on a platter.

  11. Yarlung Records

    I am fascinated that you are seeing the same trend for vinyl as we see. Yarlung Records is only a small audiophile record label but our figures support what you are talking about on Nielsen Soundscan. We see two areas of growth, actually vinyl and high resolution digital downloads. MP3s and CD sales are both more or less flat with certain anomolies. We released a new recording with the late (and legenday) mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson last spring and sales were (and are still) brisk.
    My hunch is that people who buy music are getting sick of the highly compressed low resolution files most people associate with digital downloads. Hence the interest in high resolution digital downloads and vinyl. I am not trying to knock digital recordings when I say this, becase they continue to improve. But to my ear as a recording engineer and producer, digital (even in the highest resolutions available) have not quite matched the quality and detail (and frankly resolution) of true analogue tape.
    It may be interesting to see how these sales numbers evolve in the next year or two.
    Bob Attiyah

  12. Jan

    Whatever floats your boat! If music excites and engages you, great! Music is mysterious. Some of us can’t live without it. It’s like air, food or water. Enjoy it as you wish in as many or few formats or platforms. So many music listeners never heard vinyl until recently. That some have become actively engaged is, as Michael Fremer commented, like discovering gourmet food. It may not be for everyone but, please, let everyone have a listen! For the majority, music, or gourmet food, or fancy wine isn’t their passion. But for some, it is. Let them enjoy it!

  13. jw

    It’s hard to write about vinyl (either for or against) without sounding like a douchebag, but here’s some thoughts…
    I’m 30 & I have 2 hi-fi stereos, one in my living room & one in my bedroom. I recently added an Apple Airport Express to the aux input on each stereo, so I can broadcast Spotify wireless to either stereo from anywhere in the house, & switch between vinyl & Spotify on the fly.
    To me, it’s two different modes of listening. During the week I spend 60-70% of the time streaming, on weekend it’s mostly vinyl. If I’m working & can’t be bothered to flip/change records, I’m usually streaming. If I’m doing something tedius like cleaning or organizing something, I’m listening to vinyl. Any concentrated listening is vinyl. And in a social setting it’s almost always vinyl. All of my friends prefer vinyl as a format & own turntables, & some of my best friends have become my vinyl & audio equipment dealers.
    I see streaming & vinyl as perfect compliments to one another. Anything I listen to repeatedly on Spotify I end up getting on vinyl. I bought a couple of records before I bought a stereo, & there was a novelty aspect to it & maybe a collecting component at first, & I think that’s generally how people first get into it. But a lot of folks grow past that, & it becomes an irreplacable part of our lives. I can discover something on Spotify & if I don’t document it somehow, I may never think to listen to it ever again. But I can never forget my vinyl because it’s on my shelves. And having a friend pick a record off my shelf & put it on the turntable is sort of a communal experience, which you don’t necessarily get with digital audio.
    There’s stuff missing from digital audio that vinyl provides, & it goes beyond audio quality. And for most people, those things aren’t relevant. But for a growing number of people, artwork, tangibility, audio fidelity, & the communal aspects of vinyl are becoming increasingly appreciated.
    I ordered the Criterion edition of Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb documentary last week… there won’t be documentaries about cover artists from the ’00s, which is a shame. I hope that a greater appreciation for the artwork & even the musicians & producers… everything that goes into realizing a record returns with this continued increase of interest in vinyl.

    • FarePlay

      JW, If streaming can support paid downloads or better yet physical product sales than professional musicians may be able to survive.
      That’s the battle I’m fighting…….

      • JW

        I’m not sure there any doubt that premium streaming at scale will adequately support artists & songwriters. But it’s a low margin, high volume game. If Spotify, for instance, killed ad-supported streaming right now, their chances of ever reaching critical mass are dramatically reduced. And without that, the picture is pretty bleak.
        CDs are on continual decline & will eventually bottom at a fraction of where they are now as the ability to play CDs disappears from computers & automobiles over time (I’m typing on a Mac laptop with no cd rom). And those lost physical sales aren’t going to convert to digital downloads at a 1:1 ratio. A la carte pricing means lost sales, there’s no two ways about it. So even in a very best case scenario, you’ve got a fixed amount of interest in recorded music & many of those consumers are going to opt for the single rather than the full album. There’s no longer an infrastructure to cost-effectively promote enough new songs to compensate for the loss of full album sales with single downloads, even at a 29% premium. If we’re relying on digital downloads, we’re looking at a longterm depression for the industry. I don’t see any justification whatsoever for this blind hope that the industry will do anything but continue to shrink if digital downloads continue to be relied upon as the primary source of artist income. I just plain don’t see a reasonable argument for substantial digital sales-based growth. I would love to hear one, but I’m not holding my breath.
        I think one of the central problems here is that a lot of folks in the industry are focused on piracy to the degree that they’re completely missing all of the other factors involved in the decline of recorded music sales: a la carte pricing is inherently set up to deliver diminished returns; parents’ dollars are now going towards tech for younger demographics, rather than recorded music; interest in music radio is waning; cultural fragmentation makes promoting a new act super complicated (i.e. the long tail as a “distraction” or noise); etc. It’s an illusion (or perhaps a delusion) that enforcing piracy penalties or eliminating ad revenue for piracy enablers is going to return the industry to it’s former glory. While those things may have a small positive effect in overall recorded music revenue, piracy of recorded music is NOT otherwise monetizable (in terms of downloads or cd purchases) as a general rule. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just look at Sweden.
        The reality of the situation is that premium streaming offers the only real potential upside. No one’s arguing that free streaming should be established for the long term; it’s clear that internet advertising in it’s current iteration cannot sustaine the recorded music industry. But as a loss leader in the short term, I think it’s absolutely essential. There’s no other way to spur adoption of streaming as a new format in order for premium subscriptions to reach critical mass, making the services profitable.
        So when people say “streaming rates are shit, this type of payout can’t sustaine artists,” my immediate reaction is “no shit, Sherlock.” Yes, it’s an unsustainable business model. Yes, it’s risky to blow through so much venture capital. But what other options are there? And what are the potential upsides?

  14. Have you ever...

    Have you ever tried rolling a joint on a CD case? There’s not as much surface area!
    Kidding, but I look at the vinyl resurgence this way:
    I’m 23 and watched as we paid for the ability to access music through different mediums (cassettes, then CDs minidiscs, then the internet). After cassettes it was all digital and the only thing that changed was the access method – not the music format itself.
    I love the ability to access any artist/song anywhere from any device but when I’m home I want to have the most premium experience around my favorite artists/albums. I want to be able to hold the music in my hand. When it’s tangible I feel real value in it. There’s something to be said about how big, heavy and PHYSICAL a vinyl LP and sleeve is compared to the CD comparison. It just feels more substantial. It sounds way more substantial as well.
    I’m going to continue to access music from the cloud but if it’s anything I really like I will be buying the LP.

  15. mdti

    Vynils are up…ok
    But this is not complete without the equipment rate of consumers, in one word, what are the numbers for purchases of turntables ?

  16. 1890s Kinda Guy

    What is this? It appears to be some graph of sorts (of colorful variety) showing the growth of Edison’s wax cylinders, which we all know is a fad that will never rival the power of the large brass bands that are suddenly popular with the kids these days.
    Poppycockery! The colorful outfits of the marching band, parading through our town once every three years, you cannot just put that on some ‘album cover’ and expect anyone to part with a penny for it!
    There will never be a day when I want to sit in the comfort of my chambers, listening to a large orchestra that already played a great work by the likes of Mahler or… dare I say the young upstart Gershwin so popular in dark joints and alleys these days.
    Nobody wants to hear the music after the show! This will be a fad with great financial ruin to those who invest in it!