In the US, retail sales of music continued to grow year over year based on data collected by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). According to the latest RIAA quarterly report, vinyl sales continue to increase. This goes against the trend in physical format sales which showed a projected annual decline of 1% to $632 million for the first half of 2017. Vinyl sales are projected to increase by 3% ($182 million reported for the first half of 2017) while CD sales will decrease by 3%. For physical format sales, vinyl will represent almost one third (29%) of units shipped. This is vinyl’s highest share of the physical format pie since the mid eighties.
While physical sales continued to decline, the 1% decline represents the smallest decline in recent years, perhaps indicating the physical format sales may have plateaued.
The number of LP’s shipped in the US is projected to be over 14 million million based on the reported 7.2 million in the first half of 2017. What is interesting is the vinyl pressing capacity that is growing world wide. New facilities are opening in Atlanta and Texas, Australia, Korea and Japan, as well as a number of new plants in Canada (Kaneshii and Microforum to mention only two). One has to assume that the industry expects demand for vinyl to continue to grow.
Also of note are the two areas of vinyl sales not captured by the RIAA data: show / concert sales and the used vinyl market.
It is still challenging to estimate the volume of LPs sold by artists before and after shows, but when discussing sales numbers, from Microforum spoke of show sales ” There could be fifty bands in one city with each selling a thousand records – that’s huge”. These are unreported sales.
If unreported new album sales are challenging, unreported used sales are near impossible to accurately report. That said, Discogs, the largest avenue for used vinyl sales, keeps a detailed accounting of sales. The accuracy of the Discogs data can be assumed to be quite high as it is drawn from their single database. It does not represent any consolidation of data from varying sources with differing definitions of sales.
The mid-year report from Discogs indicates a 16% increase in vinyl album sales for the first half of 2017 in stark contrast to the 17% decline in sales reported by Nielsen. That is almost 4.6 million albums sold through Discogs. Now in fairness, this is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. Nielsen reports on new album sales while Discogs is reporting on both new and used sales. That said, Discogs has seen a huge increase in the new release sales: 123% increase from 90,453 40,415 in 2016.
In reviewing the comments on the Discogs report, there is bickering about the validity of the infographics presented by Discogs. As my father regularly told me “Figures can lie and liars and figure”. I’m not suggesting Discogs is intentionally misleading readers. There are many ways to present data and all have their own merits and shortcomings. If you’re questioning the interest in vinyl world wide, check out Statistica.
For me, the bottom line is, interest in vinyl is huge and increasing. By how much? Well, that is debatable. I’m going to put on some vinyl and think about it.