There’s no denying it, vinyl is experiencing a resurgence, and while it is only taking a small share of the market compared to the growing popularity of streaming services and digital sales, it’s possibly the only physical format that’s still experiencing growth.
A mid-year report from Nielsen Soundscan shows that over the last six months, vinyl sales are at 2.9 million units, which is a 33% increase from 2012, which this time last year had moved 2.2 million. While record sales in the US totalled just 990,000 in 2007 according to the report, last year’s total figure of over 4.5 million shows a 350% increase in those 5 years.
Curiously however, while the sales of vinyl are increasing, the sales of record turntables have not grown in correlation, as Quartz writer DeVon Harris points out in an article that questions whether the increased number of vinyl records being sold – generally to hipsters – are actually being listened to.
While sales of vinyl have compounded at around 30% year on year since 2007, turntable sales in the US have ranged from 104,000 to 115,00 units in the same six year period. As Harris points out, this leads to some interesting conclusions, “so either the newer turntables purchased are far, far more durable than those in recent memory (they aren’t…) or something else is happening with these records.” “While the sales of vinyl are increasing, the sales of record turntables have not grown in correlation…”
The argument goes that while a good proportion of people buying records are (hopefully) listening to them, just as many are probably buying them purely for their artistic and cultural merit; think of the way that vinyl display cases are marketed or how trendy retailers like Urban Outfitters treat records like a fashion accessory.
The nostalgia factor of vinyl and their cultural appeal has certainly been pushed as a fashionable, marketable item in recent years and it’s working, as demonstrated by a recent study in the UK that showed the 18-24 demographic providing the biggest demand for vinyl records.
Further compounding the idea that it’s ‘the youth’ buying up vinyl in droves are the aforementioned Nielsen Soundscan results of the Top 10 vinyl records of the year so far.
Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories trounces the competition as the biggest seller of the year, shifting 32,000 copies on vinyl, which is 12,000 more than the #2 position – Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City, and practically double that of #3 – Queens Of The Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork.
Which isn’t to say that no-one over 24 is exempt from buying these albums (in fact Daft Punk’s brand of future nostalgia with their latest album deliberately harkens back to the golden disco era of the 70s), but it’s hard to ignore that many of the artists in the Top 10 list appeal to a younger, hipper set.
Indie favourites The Postal Service, The National, and the aforementioned Vampire Weekend are all there, while the rest of the high vinyl sales Top 10 is rounded out by the likes of Mumford & Sons (with both of their albums – Sigh No More and Babel – making the list), the Spotify-baiting, soundhalo backing Atoms For Peace, and Australia’s own Tame Impala with Lonerism being the fifth highest selling vinyl release in America at 14,000 units.
Whether these records are actually being listened to or simply being displayed in a case on the wall of a student sharehouse is of little consequence to the labels and artists – sales are sales – and in fact vinyl sales are helping the indies gain ground on the majors, and while vinyl may not crunch the big numbers of its glory day, or the way that digital downloads and streaming services do for the music industry today, it does show that the little wax format that could is steadily surviving.
Top 10 Selling Vinyl Releases Of 2013 In Us So Far
1. Daft Punk — Random Access Memories – 32,000 Units
2. Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires Of The City – 20,000 Units
3. Queens Of The Stone Age — …Like Clockwork – 16,000 Units
4. Mumford & Sons — Babel – 15,000 Units
5. Tame Impala — Lonerism – 14,000 Units
6. Mumford & Sons — Sigh No More – 14,000 Units
7. Atoms For Peace — Amok – 14,000 Units
8. The National — Trouble Will Find Me – 13,000 Units
9. The Lumineers — The Lumineers – 12,000 Units
10. The Postal Service — Give Up (10th Anniversary Reissue) – 11,000 Units