The revival of vinyl records continues with a 14th consecutive year of growth


Old-school vinyl records continue to see something of a revival among music lovers, with sales increasing by more than 10% between 2020 and 2021.

According to the Official Charts Company, the number sold in the UK increased from 4.8 in 2020 to 5.3 million in 2021, a 10.6% increase in equivalent album sales.

This is close to the 11.6% increase seen between 2019 and 2020 and represents the 14th consecutive year of growth since 2007, when a record 205,292 vinyl records were sold.

The album equivalent unit is used to define the music consumption that is equivalent to buying an album, and can be applied to all digital and physical formats, including streaming services like Spotify.

Plus, while vinyl has surged, CD seems on the way out.

Sales of brilliant records, which were once touted as indestructible, fell from 23.5 million to just 14.4 million between 2019 and 2021.

Kevin Jones, co-founder of Twickenham’s Eel Pie Records, explained that CD sales have now dropped to the point that the shop no longer stocks them.

Meanwhile, audiences are streaming in ever-growing numbers, accounting for 83.1% of the market in 2021, up 2.5% from the previous year.

The current growth of the streaming market is colossal, with 132.4 million sales in 2021, compared to 104.2 million in 2019.

A graph showing the evolution of music streaming and vinyl records over the past three years

Gennaro Castaldo, director of communications at the British phonographic industry said, “In particular, younger consumers are drawn to the idea of ​​vinyl.

“We are seeing continued growth and that growth is further fueling demand.

“There is a virtuous circle, because growth begets growth.

“The labels see there’s a demand, they’re putting more resources into creating more vinyl and marketing it accordingly and improving the quality.

“Then more artists want to release on these formats.

“At the same time, we saw this almost symbiotic relationship with streaming.

“One factor that counted against vinyl, CD and physical formats in the early days when we first made the transition to digital was that people were reluctant to pay for the download and the physical equivalent as well, so two felt like they were in competition – you had one or the other.

“As streaming came along from 2014, because it was an entirely different model where you paid for a service rather than buying the product, suddenly it seemed like both could exist and in fact be quite complementary.

“Most of us will be streaming for our general discovery and day-to-day needs, but if we come across an album or artist that we particularly like, then a lot of people will make the effort to go out and buy it.

“Fans who love artists and want to buy them on vinyl, CD and cassette will likely invest in all formats.

“One of the things that defines our music industry right now is that there’s never been more choice.

“Whether it’s through streaming, downloads, or through these physical formats, record companies are investing in that and they’re enabling it, as are retailers.

“It’s a bit of a golden script and I can see it playing out well in that sense.”

At the same time, the vinyl market is under threat.

Vinyl records are petroleum products and therefore not very durable or environmentally friendly.

To compound this, a lack of raw materials such as oil could make it harder for record labels and pressing factories to manufacture their products.

Cataldo said: “Obviously everything has a limited shelf life or use, whether it’s 200 or 100 years from now, at some point something ends and you have to reduce its carbon footprint.”

As for cassettes, there has been much speculation about them becoming the hot new format, as 2021 saw its ninth consecutive year of growth, with the BPI reporting purchases of 190,000 cassettes, up around a fifth. (20%) on the year and the highest amount since 2003, when 243,000 tapes were sold.


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