The practice of listening to an album from start to finish with no interruptions has been forgotten to some extent. Through the digital music format and the convenience of music streaming, services have re-focused consumers to singles rather than albums. Simultaneously, they have provided sound quality that is often inferior to that of an LP/CD. Vinyl is still appreciated not just for its superior sound quality, but for its artwork, and for the special, intimate experience of putting an LP on a record player, and laying the needle down on the vinyl. One might assume that because of the rise of digital music sales at the start of the century and the more recent explosion of music subscription services that sales of vinyl have diminished. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
An article written by The Guardian highlights the fact that 2016 saw the highest sale rates of vinyl in 25 years. Over 3.2 million LP’s were sold in 2016, which is a 53% increase from the previous year. 2016 was also the first year in which profits from vinyl sales exceeded the profits from digital sales. In the U.K, although digital sales accounted for more units sold, vinyl sales hit £2.4m compared with the £2.1m generated by digital sales. Even in the US, vinyl sales increased by 10% (from 2015 to 2016), making it the 11th consecutive year in an increase of LP sales.
“Vinyl has also experienced eight consecutive years of growth, despite almost dying out around 2006.”
Another article written by The Guardian in 2016 indicated that “vinyl has also experienced eight consecutive years of growth, despite almost dying out around 2006.” So even though vinyl experienced a near-extinction in 2006, the world has seen a significant rise and a literal revival of music on vinyl. There are some factors as to why 2016 was a particularly profitable year for vinyl sellers. The loss of music legends such as David Bowie and Prince caused an increase of sales for those artists particularly, resulting in Bowie becoming the bestselling vinyl artist of 2016. His vinyl issue of his final album Blackstar contained many secret features (including the fact that it appeared strewn with diamonds in the right light) that made the record an entire experience to own. Meanwhile, vinyl purists like Jack White, who once refused to allow journalists to listen to an early copy of a White Stripes album unless they could do so on a record player, are finding ways to revolutionise the format. Jack White recently pressed a solo record that contained a projected hologram as it spun on a turntable. He also facilitated the first ever occurrence of a record playing in space.
“They are finding music through streaming and if they love it, they are going out and investing in it in a physical format.”
The relationship between music streaming services and vinyl sales is an interesting one. There seems to be a trend on display, with music consumers using streaming services to find new music, and then purchasing the music they love on LP. Vanessa Higgins, CEO of Regent Street and Gold Bar Records who is an independent label member of the British Phonographic Industry council, said “people think millennials just stream and are just digital but actually I think we are going to see increasingly over this coming year that young people still want something tangible and real and that’s where vinyl is taking on the role that the CD used to have.” Higgins continues, “it used to be that music discovery was mainly limited to the radio, but now people are free to look and listen to all sorts of music, so they are hearing so much more new or different music than they were before. They are finding music through streaming, and if they love it, they are going out and investing in it in a physical format.” So even in the height of music streaming, the interest in vinyl seems to have the capacity to co-exist with music streaming services.
For those of you who miss the days of the LP, there is reason to have hope! It’s looking more and more like vinyl will never die.