As the music industry focuses on the streaming revolution and all the new avenues fans can consume their music, an older audio format has been on the rise: vinyl. For the first time in 25 years more than 3 million LPs were sold in 2016, according to the British Phonographic Industry.
This is the ninth consecutive year that vinyl sales have grown, including a 44% increase from 2015 to 2016. There was even one week in December where more money was spent on vinyl records in the UK than in digital sales, though some of that was possibly attributed to extra Christmas spending.
According to UK accounting firm Deloitte, vinyl could soon become a $1 billion industry. The firm predicts that vinyl sales could produce $800M to $900M in 2016 alone.
“Vinyl should account for almost a fifth of the sales of physical music products in 2017 and around 7 per cent of the $15bn that the global music industry is expected to take,” [Deloitte] claims.
However, there are some important caveats to note. As many have noted, we witnessed an unfortunate amount of major celebrity deaths in 2016, including musical icons like David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Phife Dawg, and Glenn Frey. Prince was famously cantankerous when it came to the rights of his catalogue—the only major streaming service where you can access his records is Tidal.
A major catalyst in vinyl’s revival last year was Bowie, whose 2016 record Blackstar was the highest-selling LP for the year, moving 54,000 units since January. Bowie appears a total of five times in the top 40 for 2016 vinyl sales, for his records The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (No. 12), Hunky Dory (No. 17), Nothing Has Changed—The Very Best of (No. 25), and Changesonebowie (No. 28). Prince also made an appearance in the top 10 for Purple Rain (No. 9).
Though some recent releases like Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, Adele’s 25, The Arctic Monkeys’ AM, and The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It appear in the Top 40, the bulk of vinyl sales were of re-releases or classic records from well-known artists, like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors.
“In 1981, over 1 billion albums were sold. In 2017 it will be around 40 million,” Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecoms research at Deloitte told The Financial Times. “This is not the resurgence that is portrayed. It is a blip.”
But could vinyl become music’s future for those seeking physical copies of their favorite artists? Also important to note: Is there a lack of available product for fans who would’ve purchased LP copies of their favorite 2016 records? Frank Ocean only sold the Blonde LP for 24 hours on Black Friday, while Kanye West never officially released any physical version of The Life of Pablo, leading to bootleggers producing their own copies, to cite two examples.
One thing is certain for now: Vinyl is very much alive in 2017.