Taylor Swift has broken yet another record with her recent 10th album, ‘Midnights’, becoming the first artist to sell more copies of an album on vinyl than CD since the 1980s.
‘Midnights’ arrived in October and quickly shot to the top of the charts in virtually every major territory (except Japan, where it peaked at Number Seven). The release made Swift the only artist in history to have five albums sell over a million units during its first week on shelves, shifting nearly 1.6 million units right off the bat. That number grew to six million within two months, thus breaking another sales record (the album has broken more than 80 so far).
Upon its release, ‘Midnights’ was issued in five colour-coded CD and vinyl editions, with some limited not by how many copies were pressed, but how long they were sold for. The Guardian reported that Swift has thus far sold 80,000 copies of ‘Midnights’ on vinyl, but this is likely a typo – the real number being 800,000 – as it was reported in October that she’d sold 575,000 LPs in the album’s first week of release.
Nevertheless, ‘Midnights’ not only became the fastest selling vinyl release since the data started being tracked in 1991, but overall, it’s the highest selling vinyl album of the 21st century. It marks the first time since 1987 that an album has sold more copies on vinyl than it has on CD; that year, the best-selling albums were ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson, the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing and ‘Appetite For Destruction’ by Guns N’ Roses.
It’s predicted that a total of 5.5million vinyl LPs will be sold by the end of 2022, marking a 15th consecutive year in sales growth. Too, eight of this year’s Top Ten sellers – the list of which will be released early in 2023 – are said to be albums released within the past 12 months.
In a statement published by The Guardian, Kim Bayley – chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) – said the monumental sales have defined “a watershed moment for the entire music industry”. She said of vinyl’s ongoing climb to reclaiming format supremacy: “After the CD came along and pretty much wiped out the vinyl business, few of us would have believed a renaissance like this was possible.”
As sales for LP records continue to surge, those for CDs continue to dwindle. Last year, for example, vinyl sales rose to £135.6million (a boost of 23 per cent), while CD sales fell by 2.9 per cent for a total of £150million. Experts have estimated that 2022’s data will see vinyl sales actually overtake CDs, with figures pointing to an advantage of up to £20million.
On what this means for the ostensibly failing format, Bayley said: “Will the CD disappear? Of course its prospects don’t look good right now, but it offers a permanence and robustness and quality which is unique. Given how wrong we were about vinyl, it would be foolish to write off the CD for ever.”
Meanwhile, Geoff Taylor – chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) – opined that vinyl is “relevant as ever”, especially as the format nears its 75th anniversary. “In an age of streaming, physical music purchases remain an essential and healthy part of the music market,” he says.
‘Midnights’ earned a four-star review from NME’s Hannah Mylrea, and the album was recently labelled the 12th best of 2022. Swift will tour it across North America for the bulk of next year, with a UK run set to be announced in the coming months.