Would People Buy More Vinyl If It Were More Sustainable?—Maybe

will sustainable vinyl result in more sales?
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will sustainable vinyl result in more sales?
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Photo Credit: Clem Onojeghuo

The explosive years of vinyl’s recent growth trend have drawn down—is now the time for more sustainable vinyl to take center stage? A new survey reveals consumer interest in sustainable vinyl is at an all-time high. Here’s the latest.

Between 2019 and 2020 (before the pandemic) vinyl sales grew 46.2% according to data collected by Luminate. From 2021 and 2022, vinyl’s growth rate exploded to 51.4% as new and old collectors alike rediscovered their love for the format. But vinyl sales from 2021 to 2022 grew only 4.2%—signifying a slowdown in interest. Could this slowdown be the time to explore more sustainable vinyl production?

Vinyl media made up 43.4% of all physical media sales in 2022—so it’s still quite popular among those who collect physical media. 48% of all vinyl sold in the United States is sold through independent record stores, while 32.8% of records are bought online—usually from artist stores. Vinyl sales hit a high in the week ending in December 22, with 2.232 million records bought. That breaks a previous weekly sales record for December 23, 2021 when 2.115 million records were sold.

A recent survey conducted by Key Production—the UKs largest broker for physical music production—says it sees increased demand for environmentally friendly vinyl among music consumers. Two-thirds (69%) of respondents to a recent survey said they would buy more records if they were made with reduced environmental impact. 77% of those respondents said they would be willing to pay a premium for reduced environmental impact products—a significant shift in demand for eco-friendly vinyl products.

What’s even more interesting is that general respondents (83%) said they don’t perceive or can’t tell a difference between 180g heavyweight vinyl and other alternatives. Among vinyl buyers, that number is still as high as 70% who don’t believe there’s any difference between standard and heavyweight vinyl.

“As consumer awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, it is evident that there is a substantial market opportunity for eco-friendly vinyl records,” says Karen Emanuel, CEO of Key Production Group. “Regarding 180g records—while this is often seen by the industry as a more sought after product, this survey shows that the industry is actually getting it wrong. Customers aren’t valuing the weight as they think.”

“High quality records can be made at 140g and this slightly lower weight can have a hugely positive impact across the whole supply chain.”

Vinyl record sustainability conversations in the industry have increased since 2020. Most recently Billie Eilish released her latest record with a sustainability plan in place. Vinyl copies of Hit Me Hard and Soft were pressed to either reground or bio-attributed vinyl and all the packaging was made from recycled materials.

While the years of explosive vinyl sales may be flattening out, vinyl sales are still reaching all-time highs. Recent data from ERA shows the combination of Record Store Day (April 20) and Taylor Swift’s latest album—The Tortured Poets Department— has delivered the highest weekly sales of vinyl albums in 30 years. As demand for new vinyl grows, producing it sustainably becomes something consumers want the industry to focus on.

“What we’re seeing is a consumer shift towards a demand for physical music made with a reduced [environmental] impact,” adds John Service, Strategy and Sustainability Director at Key Production Group. “Vinyl can be made more sustainably with new compounds which replaces the fossil-fuel ingredients, and packaging can be made with completely recycled materials.”

“With the increasing demand, we’re here to work with artists, labels, and other stakeholders to ensure we are creating high-quality physical music that is produced as sustainably as possible and meets the needs and values of today’s music consumers.”