Vinyl Groups Prep Reports Based on ‘Data At the Record-Pressing Plant Level’ Amid Luminate Indie-Retail Changes

luminate vinyl changes
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luminate vinyl changes
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Vinyl for sale at Vinyl Solution Records’ San Mateo location. Photo Credit: Mick Haupt

Last week, Luminate confirmed plans to move forward with changes in the way it calculates physical music sales attributable to indie retailers. Now, having opposed the pivot from the outset, vinyl organizations are in talks to begin collecting data directly from record-pressing plants.

The Vinyl Alliance and the Vinyl Record Manufacturers Association (VRMA) reached out to DMN with a formal response to Luminate’s changes, which are expected to go into effect on the 29th. Formerly P-MRC Data, Luminate provides sales information for Billboard’s charts and, in brief, is poised to cease estimating the commercial particulars of the entire U.S. and Canadian indie-physical markets based upon a collection of samples.

Instead, the entity intends to account only for indie sales reported directly to it by retailers. And while Luminate has identified a purported “consensus that the current weighted modeling should be retired,” the aforementioned Vinyl Alliance and the VRMA have made clear their position that the switch would effectively box out the vast majority of indie record 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 VRMA and the Vinyl Alliance maintained last week.

As the changes are set to roll out in 10 days in any event, the VRMA and the Vinyl Alliance have underscored their belief that “the data collected will be a grossly inaccurate representation of the sales of physical products in general and vinyl specifically.”

To minimize this anticipated inaccuracy, the organizations are calling on “Luminate to expedite its efforts to onboard sufficient numbers of independent music retail locations to offset the removal of their current weighting calculation.”

“Anything short of this is an abdication of their responsibility to measure and publish accurate and accountable results,” the Vinyl Alliance and the VRMA communicated. “The public has the right to know that all sectors of the retail music business are represented accurately when Billboard announces its weekly charts. Without sufficient representation, this change will erode confidence in both Luminate’s market measurement and Billboard as the publisher of the weekly charts.”

Time will reveal the extent of Luminate’s onboarding efforts, but evidence suggests that the company may not be in a hurry to connect with the soon-to-be-excluded retailers.

Per Billboard, which is tied to Luminate via Penske Media, the data-focused business said its coverage extended to 93 percent of “the total U.S. physical market” as of mid-November, with sales figures collected from 95 percent “of U.S. independent retail stores that reach over 1,000 sales per week.”

Of course, touting the percentages doesn’t exactly imply an eagerness to develop an all-encompassing network of reporting indie retailers. Moving more than 1,000 non-secondhand units (with most of the sales presumably involving the long-surging vinyl) per week implies an average of at least 143 or so products sold each day.

According to the RIAA, 23.4 million vinyl units were shipped (not necessarily sold) in the States during 2023’s opening half. Needless to say, a sizable portion of the total is attributable to mega-retailers like Walmart, Target, and Amazon.

Assuming for argument’s sake that all the units had been forwarded to the approximately 1,400 stateside indie record stores identified by Record Store Day, though, the establishments would have received about 16,700 products apiece.

Spread out across the six-month stretch, those products, if completely sold off, would represent an average of only 93 units moved per store daily and 650 units moved weekly. That’s not to say indie record stores’ new-product sales are insignificant; instead, the top-level stats provide a rough idea of how very many retailers and cumulative sales may be left behind and underrepresented by Luminate’s new system.

Bearing in mind the points, the VRMA says it’s “actively engaging with an alternative third-party reporting source,” which would “collect and report quarterly data at the record-pressing plant level to ensure that we have a counter-balance to Luminate’s reporting.”

The VRMA didn’t elaborate upon these talks, but it’s worth noting that Record Store Day’s indie-store chart is powered by StreetPulse. The latter’s website says the company “provides daily sales data updated in realtime built on a powerful filterset producing millions of data combinations.”