When new vinyl music sales died, did they gain a treasured second life?


Over the last decade the occasional anecdote has been dropped into presentations I’ve seen about either the resurgence of a media format, or the fact that formats don’t die, they simply multiply.

Sadly in the case of vinyl, the music seems likely to come to a halt in the not-too-distant future; at least in the UK. For while 7″ singles did go through a minor revival in the mid-noughties. Annual sales in the UK fell by more than 50% in 2008; dropping to below half a million units according to the BMI.

BPI Reported UK 7" Vinyl Sales

BPI Reported UK 7\

The story is a lot worse for 12″ singles; they have dropped from selling 4 million units in 2000 down to less than 254,000 sales in 2008.

BPI Reported UK 12 Inch Vinyl Sales

BPI Reported UK 12 Inch Vinyl Sales

The final death for new vinyl is perhaps indicated by sales of LP records. As LP’s have long been the format of choice for audiophiles, including blues, jazz and classical music fans. Sadly the warmth and audio-quality added to the music by the format, when married to a decent deck, amp and set of speakers, hasn’t slowed the slide from over 750,000 units in 2000 down to a little over 208,000 in 2008.

BPI Reported UK LP Vinyl Sales

BPI Reported UK LP Vinyl Sales

So is the vinyl music format clinically dead? If it were a person, would it be on a plane from London to Geneva, to an arranged assisted suicide?

Well, like many things, the story isn’t quite that simple. If the reason sales of new vinyl have been dying were the introduction of the CD, followed by a coup de grâce from the MP3. Son of MP3, free digital music channels (e.g. Last.FM), or the competing subscription based channels (e,g, Spotify), may be causing an aberration. Because people are listening to more music than ever before.

Here’s the theory: People are listening to far wider and more eclectic music collections now; more regularly.

While this passion for collecting music fuels the search for the new and latest act. It also means some people are listening to far more previously released music. They are (re-)discovering old music, cared for music, treasured music; music that’s a bit worn and lived in. Physical music, made tactile and often with great artwork on the sleeve.

Nostalgia also plays a part. The recession has seen the revival of many comforting brands, products (and bands) that were popular in the past.

Even back in 2008 GfK were reporting an uplift in record turntable sales (highlighted under the audio separates section). This was a modest growth (to £10m in the UK market) at a time when personal MP3 player sales were down year-on-year.

Even big new tech goods such as digital audio streaming clients/servers only reported £16m in sales in the same report. And the average price per item of these shiny new MP3 juke boxes is over double that of turntables.

It seems vinyl may yet find a second life as a purer source for treasured and rare music. Vinyl is being collected again. Second-hand it maybe, which won’t help the BMI record any growth in chart-related sales. But actual sales volume for vinyl (new and second-hand), as well as the amount of music played on vinyl, could well go through a leap and then a modest revival. At least for the next few years.

The leap itself is likely to be in part from the increasing number of people transferring collections from one media format to another. 35mm to jpg, VHS to DVD, DVD to HD. Leaving LP’s and singles to transfer via turntables with USB connectors to MP3 or similar digital options.

But dusting off an old collection of something as treasured as vinyl music, whether you bought it new or second-hand, has an addictive and unique sensory quality about it. Particularly if you listen and experience the music whilst transferring it to digital files. A guilty pleasure if you will.

And so more people may find life in Hi-Fi yet. At least until that annoying scratch reminds you why you settle for less with your iPoded tunes.

According to figures from Nielsen SoundScan, vinyl sales were up 50% through May of this year in the US and Canada. So vinyl is on the rebound again across the pond.

Read more from Jessica Whitta: HERE

Visit BMI for their UK vinyl chart sales data: HERE

What HiFi Industry Insider Report Summary: HERE

One Response to “When new vinyl music sales died, did they gain a treasured second life?”

  1. Thanks for the link to my article.

    Jessica Whitta
    Tenfifteen, Ltd. Rock Blog
    Owner, Rock Music Columnist

    Seattle Concert Examiner


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