It’s a great story. A format back from the virtual dead. How often do you get to say that? Yesterday the BBC reported the shock news that more money is now being spent on vinyl than on downloaded albums.
Figures show that vinyl sales made the record industry £2.4m last week, while downloads took £2.1m, at least according to the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA). Everyone is getting very excited.
There’s no doubt that we have seen a shift in music consumption over the last few years. In the same week last year, vinyl albums made £1.2m while digital ones made £4.4m. In other words vinyl revenue has doubled in 12 months while digital download revenue has more than halved in the same period.
However, the reason for this shift isn’t so much to do with vinyl’s success. It’s largely because consumers have switched away from digital downloads towards popular streaming services like Deezer and Spotify.
At the same time more money is being spent on records, partly because they are much nicer to wrap for Xmas than a download. But also because they are being stocked in supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s as well as popular stationery/homeware shops like Tiger.
Furthermore, vinyl is way more expensive than digital downloads. Last week’s biggest-selling vinyl was Kate Bush’s triple-disc live album Before The Dawn, which retails at a whopping £52. A download of the same recording is available for £12!
So although more money has been generated from vinyl than digital downloads, downloads are still the more popular format (at least for the time being). According to the ERA, 120,000 vinyl albums were sold last week, compared with 295,000 digital ones.
Overall, vinyl still represents less than 2% of the overall music market, although the touchy feely format has now shown eight consecutive years of growth since facing near extinction in 2007.
Interestingly, earlier this year a BBC/ICM poll found that people who listened to music on streaming services were more likely to buy vinyl – often as a goodwill gesture to an artist they loved.
However, 48% of those surveyed said they did not play the vinyl they bought while astonishingly 7% did not even own a turntable!
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