Well as 2014 is on our doorstep, the news media has once again filled its white space with what is quickly becoming a mainstay of the end of year news: the rise of vinyl.
The most common angle this time of year is the one that comes with the least surprise; vinyl sales have once again grown, up 49% from last year. This means vinyl now represents 3.5% of total music sales, up from around 2% of sales at the end of the 2013. Whilst the resurgence is small, it’s bucking the trend of declining physical sales.
This growth is on the back of rock record buyers, with Jack White’s Lazaretto being the highest selling vinyl album with 75,700 units. It seems the gimmick of a backward playing, secret section vinyl album payed off with the next biggest seller being the Arctic Monkeys who sold about half that amount.
However, this year saw Billboard taking an interesting angle by suggesting Record Store Day is driving this resurgence. They point out that since the first Record Store Day in 2008 vinyl sales have grown 223%. They note that this has given major record labels the confidence to press the kind of numbers needed to get a decent return on investing in vinyl. But the story does note it was 2007 which saw the first increase in vinyl sales, so perhaps Billboard are looking at the wrong side of chicken or egg question.
Another interesting angle was taken by the Wall Street Journal who noted that vinyl is possibly becoming a victim of its own success. With aging equipment, fewer qualified repairers, and only a few suppliers of raw material, hold ups in the manufacturing process are becoming more common and more costly for customers. This story perhaps has some traction; Fat Possum records recently opened their own record pressing plant in Memphis, in order to overcome delays from backlogged record pressing plants. But then if Fat Possum are seeing the worth in setting up a new plant, it suggests demand for vinyl will find a way to fuel more supply.
So another year another growth in vinyl sales. Whilst it still represents a small portion of overall music sales, this continued growth is positive. Most of us are seeing friends sourcing out record players or parents dusting off theirs, and it’s now easier to find brand new, consumer turntables. The high price of second hand vinyl suggests that demand is still high, and the fact that it’s rock albums which are the highest selling suggests this is becoming a mainstream phenomenon.
Here’s to a healthy 2015, and more wax on your turntable.