No, this most definitely not a joke: Vinyl sales are at an all-time high in the U.K. In fact, the audio medium is selling better than it has in decades, which comes as no surprise to the hipper folks out there and audiophiles alike. Vinyl has seen a huge resurgence in various musical niches over the past 10 years or so—metal and all its sub-genres, for example—following its near-death in the 1990s when CDs became the number-one medium. Now, of course, digital files are leading the way with more than 50 percent of total sales so far this year, according to Music Week. And sure, vinyl only makes up about 0.8 percent of total albums sold, but Digital Music News reports that this amount is up from 0.1 percent in 2007. Also, while total vinyl sales were at £5.7 million in 2012, they are
expected to reach £12 million by the end of this year. These kind of increases are remarkable and worth investigating, which is exactly what we're doing here.
So what has helped vinyl stage this comeback in our modern digital age? Aside from aforementioned niche audiences that are still buying albums on vinyl and even cassette, there are a number of reasons.
One of them is actually the turntable that people are using to play their LPs. It turns out that many vinyl lovers are scooping up players that allow them to transfer the music directly to their computers through the USB ports. These USB turntables, such as the ones sold at MySmartBuy, are extremely versatile, because they don't just have to sit on your shelf next to some speakers for use. The same goes for the records you chose to purchase or might have in a milk crate in a closet somewhere. Just hook up one of these units to your computer and your music can go with you anywhere. Not only that, but there are some turntables that now come with mini-speakers built directly into the unit. Obviously the audiophiles out there will shudder at the idea of not having their record player hooked up to a premium system, but for the more lax listeners, it's a great place to start.
Another key component to this increase in sales is Record Store Day. For those unfamiliar, it's essentially a holiday that was created to celebrate independent record stores and the albums lining their shelves. It was created back in 2007 and has since been established as both an event for music lovers and a real money maker. RSD offers shoppers the chance to purchase super-limited edition vinyl that's often only available on that very day. And just to show that it's really making an impact on the financial side, the 2013 Record Store Day made a total of £2 million.
The way LPs are being sold is also playing a role. More often than not, someone who purchases a new album on vinyl will receive more than just the record in his or her hands. They typically include a download card that provides the opportunity to grab a free digital copy of the same album that was just purchased. This is an added incentive for music lovers who want to show off their fondness for music with a bigger, more noticeable product but also want to have it on their smartphone, for example. And according to The Guardian, the people buying these records are doing so at a rather rapid pace. It's estimated that one fifth of vinyl buyers picks up one record at least once per week while seven out of ten purchase one at least once per month.
Additionally, it's important to note that vinyl's resurgence has come about despite the fact that most DJs have abandoned buying LPs. That's right, they're no longer hauling around crates full of records for their live performances. Instead, you're more likely to see someone behind two turntables using equipment from Serato, which allows DJs to hook up their computers to their tables and “scratch” MP3s they have downloaded. This is obviously a huge convenience for these artists, but it's interesting to see how one of the medium's biggest users has shied away from the product.
Will vinyl continue to triumph as we move into 2014? We'll all just have to wait and see. For now, maybe it's time to reconsider that idea to give away (or worse, throw away) all the records that have been collecting dust in your closet or basement.