Still a Fad? Vinyl Records Return to 1991 Sales Levels

Vinyl Records Manufacturing
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Sales of vinyl records refuse to stop exploding!  In 2016, LPs, EPs, and 45s returned to sales volumes not seen since 1991.  But does this party end?

It’s been a storied resurgence for vinyl records, which now include LP, EPs, and even 45s.  Once considered a short-lived fad, this comeback has been going for ten strong years.

And, counting.  According to the latest data, sales of vinyl records are now back to early-1990s volumes.  According to data shared by British industry group BPI, vinyl record sales gained 53% in the UK alone last year.  That brings the total to 3.2 million, exactly the same volumes recorded in 1991.

What the Vinyl Records Comeback Really Looks Like…

In the US, a similar surge is happening.  That makes sense, given the cultural similarities of the two countries.  According to data shared by BuzzAngle Music, vinyl record sales gained an impressive 25.9 percent last year, to 7.2 million units.

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Still think this is a fad?

Actually, that turns out to be the number one fear for anyone considering an investment in vinyl records.  That includes venture capitalists, retailers, and consumers.  Will anyone care about LPs in 2020?

Vinyl Records Sales Outstrip Digital Sales for the First Time Ever

Perhaps the answer can be found in the data.  According to BuzzAngle, vinyl records account for just 8% of overall physical albums.  That figure is just 5 percent in the UK, all of which signals massive growth potential ahead.

But the BPI says there’s another nugget in the data: diversity.  That is, a large number of vinyl titles are selling healthy amounts, instead of just blockbuster releases.  “The depth of the vinyl revival is illustrated by the fact that over 30 titles sold more than 10,000 copies in 2016, compared to just 10 in 2015,” the group told DMN.

There are also a lot more places to buy vinyl.  A number of larger retailers are getting involved, with Urban Outfitters and Barnes & Noble suddenly facing competition from big box retailers and supermarkets.  But vinyl is also gaining strength from smaller record stores, at least the ones still standing.  The BPI credited Record Store Day for a big boost, as well as “expanded retail floor-space, and with a new audience among younger fans”.

What If Free Streaming Is Causing the Vinyl Boom?

That last part — younger buyers — is also a secret ingredient.  This isn’t just nostalgic baby boomers, though that’s certainly having an impact.  Instead, the vinyl records revolution is spanning a number of age demographics, including younger fans that still want something tangible.


10 Responses

  1. Nicky Knight

    Here’s the situation.. Back in the early to mid 90’s vinyl 12″ singles for the dance/club market was a good business.. there were lot’s of DJ culture record stores around and DJ’s frequently spent sizeable money on having the latest and greatest imports as soon as they arrived in store..

    Plus there was a sense of community out there among club/dance music followers..

    Difference Now?

    DJ’s get all their music for free from a number of dance/club music websites that
    legally share the latest mixes and remixes from labels and producers around the world.. The DJ market and track spins is all about promotion..

    The business of selling vinyl records to DJ’s is over.. and that was once a very viable business..

  2. Will Buckley

    Yes, vinyl is here to stay. For those who want a deeper connection to the music that matters to them, streaming is a one dimensional experience.

    My personal concern is the disappearance of CDs, which have been inexpensive for years. I will always buy physical product, but don’t always want to pay premium prices for new vinyl.

    What is not included is the sale of used vinyl, that I estimate to be 4 or 5 times greater than new vinyl sales in unit sales.

  3. Anonymous

    40 minutes of music for $20 or all the music for $0 ($10/month if you’re feeling generous)


  4. matt bunsen

    not a fad. mp3s are disposable and intangible. kids who love a band, want to own something real that they could hold and look at.

  5. Phillip McCrevis

    I won’t say fad, but I will say collector’s items or super fan merch. Vinyl didn’t originally come about as a fad, but it was rather state of the art technology of its time. Streaming is now state of the art technology tied to the foremost life device of humans known as smartphones. Sure, vinyl will continue to grow as collector’s items for superfans, but I doubt it will ever compete with streaming. Streaming will be what the majority of people will settle into. Vinyl is on par with band t-shirts.

  6. DuckyLad

    I am copacetic with Will Buckley’s comments on the disappearance of CD media and record companies extorting huge amounts of money for some vinyl titles.

    Personally, I love music in every format. It’s all artistry as far as I’m concerned and it’s beautiful! I’m thankful for my CD media – having it, holding it in my hands and for personal archiving. I’m certainly not fond of some company having control over my music purchases at say, lass than stellar sound quality. Ewwwww.

    I love the rounded sound of vinyl and the entire presence of a recording, but there is also something I’ve noticed about the CD. I bought an old receiver from the 70’s, outfitted it with an iPod dock, and dropped in my iTouch with music ripped from CD’s (Apple Lossless) and it sounds fantastic when played back through the 70’s receiver. I’ve discovered it’s the digital to analogue converter that makes all the difference. The old receiver was the bit of magic that had been missing from how I feel my music.

    Whatever way we choose to listen, I hope I get to choose what’s best for me ALWAYS, because music is a gift that is meant to be played, heard and then understood.

    Now, if only we listened as well as how we listen to music? THEN SING IT, DON’T SAY IT! ?

  7. Nicky Knight

    Vinyl and CD for that matter makes for a good gift and as a music collectors artifact..

    Before I talked about vinyl in the club/dance 12″ singles market and it’s eradication because of the way club/dance music for DJ’s is now distributed and promoted.

    I think the business of vinyl now is not in the dance music area but with fans buying into certain artists.. often the vinyl being purchased is not of new repertoire or artists, but rather by heritage artists and cult stars..

    Bowie, Fleetwood Mack, Boys Next Door/Birthday Party, Rolling Stones, Beatles,
    you know the ones I’m talking about..

    And the other thing… it’s expensive… in many regions a vinyl album can be
    $30-40.. that’s a lot of dough in today’s world of high rent, expensive food and
    casualization of the workforce..

  8. Jeffrey

    I love my vinyl. If its a fad I will be happy when it dies down and record stores reduce the prices to get rid of them. I wish the record companies would bring back releasing singles on 45. I don’t like having to buy a full album with only half the album is good. I own well over 1300 45s, 500 12″ singles and 700 full LPs.