In the midst of the worst times for the music business since the great semiquaver droughts of 1832, the BPI has just reported that annual sales of vinyl records have burst over the half-million mark for the first time in a decade. And it’s only October.
That’s a lot of records, bucking a trend that’s been going off a cliff for years. The number of vinyl records being sold has doubled since this time last year, and the format has increased its share of total albums sold in the UK by eight times since 2007.
So what’s going on here? Why are so many people buying records again?
The BPI survey uncovered an interesting age split in what people felt they were getting from vinyl. The vast majority of 16-44 year olds that they talked to said that the most important reason was that “the process of playing a vinyl record is more enjoyable.” It seems like a world of instant gratification, the ritual of dropping a needle onto an LP has taken on an almost religious significance. The popularity of free download links is also surely significant – why just buy mp3s when you could buy an actual real-life record and get the mp3s included?
Meanwhile, under 16s are most concerned with the cover art (presumably it’s just nice for them to look at something that isn’t on a screen) while over 45s are hanging onto their audiophile belief that records just sounds better (man!).
Remarkably, almost 4% of vinyl-buyers surveyed said that they don’t even own a record player, which means there’s something like 20,000 LPs out there that are either just being bought as objets d’art or for their more traditional purpose: as flat surfaces to roll joints on.
As we reported earlier this week, it’s not just classic albums being sold. You can click here to see the 10 biggest selling vinyl albums of the year so far but you won’t be surprised to know that Daft Punk, David Bowie and Arctic Monkeys have all been enjoying bumper sales. (Note to self: Maybe we should cover those bands in NME? Check to see if we’ve done anything already.)
Part of the popularity of newer bands’ releases on vinyl seems to be down to the emergence of a younger group of record junkies. While 35-44 year olds are still the most likely to buy LPS, over a third of buyers are aged under 35. So in the future, when CDs have gone the way of the minidisc, and when all the music ever recorded is hovering us above us in the cloud, there will still be people with big black discs in their homes, not quite sure whether to play them or frame them, but sure that they can hold onto them with both hands, and that they mean something.