A change to how Luminate reports indie vinyl sales has the Vinyl Record Manufacturing Association (VRMA) and the Vinyl Alliance bristling. Here’s the latest.
In Autumn 2023, Luminate announced a change to how it reports physical sales (vinyl, CD, cassette), relying on a direct representation of sales reported from indie retailers in the U.S. and Canada who have agreed to participate in Luminate data reporting. Historically and currently, indie sales are algorithmically determined due to the small number of record stores contributing to weekly sales activity.
Both the VRMA and the Vinyl Alliance believe this shift will unfairly minimize numbers, creating a change in the true insight of indie sales at physical retail stores. “With less than 5% of independent physical retailers currently reporting directly to Luminate, the data collected will be a grossly inaccurate representation of the sales of physical products,” the group believes.
“There will be an immediate break between the market reporting by the RIAA and the IFPI, both important and globally recognized industry organizations. Reviewing current data, the overall U.S. physical market reporting could be reduced by as much as 40% in units and 35% in value in retail dollars,” the Vinyl Alliance estimates.
“This break from the historic measurement process will have many consequences, most notably the decimation of market share currently held by independent retail. This reduction will have an immediate effect, and the downward perception of the value of the market will reverberate around the globe.”
“We agree that accuracy is the goal and with the proper amount of time dedicated to onboarding an expansive list of new independent retail reporters, we will arrive at the desired destination—an accurate measure of the market confirming the most popular artists in any given chart week.”
In 2022, vinyl record sales surpassed CDs for the first time in 30 years, marking a huge comeback for the physical format. Luminate reported vinyl sales YTD for 2023 are up 18.4% in the U.S. with fifty-two pressing plants in the U.S. producing around 200,000,000 record discs per year. That capacity is expanding, with close to 200 plants targeted to be online by 2024.
“The continued growth of vinyl sales was the impetus for starting the Association,” adds VRMA President and Chief Creative Officer of Hand Drawn Pressing’s Dustin Blocker. “This new reporting would be a widely imprecise reflection of the popularity of physical products and the strength of the industry as a whole, with the potential to have a large ripple effect on not just pressing plants but the entire vinyl value chain.”
“We have over 50 members from across the industry which include half the pressing plants in the United States, but also audio companies, plating, mastering print, packing, technology, record labels, and of course, record stores, all of whom would be affected.”