Sales of vinyl records have been growing for ten years straight. Now, they’re outstripping digital music sales in the UK.
The vinyl record comeback is going into overdrive this holiday season. Now, sales of LPs and 45s are outstripping digital sales in the UK, according to the Entertainment Retail Association (ERA).
The data showed a shocking disparity last week. But according to the ERA, sales of vinyl reached £2.4 million ($3.03 million) over the seven-day period, while digital purchases only reached £2.1 million ($2.64 million).
That’s the first time this has ever occurred in the history of the music industry.
But it probably won’t be the last. As sales of iTunes music downloads continue to tank, music fans are increasingly attracted to vinyl records. In fact, one is surging, while the other is tanking. According to the same dataset, sales of digital downloads were four times higher than digital music downloads during the same week last year.
Specifically during that week of 2015, vinyl records reached £1.2 million ($1.5 million) while digital sales topped £4.4 million ($5.5 million). That extreme flip-flop strongly suggests that vinyl record sales will outstrip digital music download sales in 2017.
Vinyl demand meets vinyl supply.
Part of the reason for the shift is simple: more releases, and more places to buy those releases. In the United States, non-traditional retailers like Urban Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, and Whole Foods have started selling vinyl records. That has placed product in front of affluent, hip audiences, with great results. The trend may also be spurring an increase in shops selling vinyl records, or at least reversing their decline (and keeping the open).
The same thing is happening in the UK. According to the ERA, shops like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Tiger are all hawking vinyl. Indie record stores are also reaping the benefits, but more importantly, keeping the product out there.
It’s also beating streaming.
And here’s another fun fact: sales of vinyl records are also beating ad-supported streaming. According to a shocking finding that surfaced last year, sales of LPs and 45s trumped revenues from YouTube Music, VEVO, SoundCloud, and Free Spotify combined.
Whether that calculus changes in 2017 is anyone’s guess. Just recently, YouTube reported ad-supported music revenues of $1 billion in 2016 alone. So let’s see.
Just a bubble?
The question remains: how high can this go? Retailers are expanding, consumers are buying, but is this just a bubble? Possibly, though the sales levels on vinyl records remain a tiny fraction of sales in the 70s and 80s. On top of that, the broader contribution to recorded music sales remains modest. All of which suggests a lot of potential upside.
Top image: Jan Hammershaug (CC by 2.0)