In today’s digital age, the most surprising stat to emerge from last year’s music industry figures was the resurgence of vinyl. Album sales catapulted last year, with 341,000 records sold in 2011, up 40% compared to 237,000 in 2010. The last time record sales were this high was 2005, when 359,000 records were sold.
Thanks to releases from some of today’s biggest artists last year, vinyl sales enjoyed a six-year high. In today’s digitally driven industry, it’s the oldest recording format still in existence and it refuses to go away.
So why has vinyl survived for so long? A main reason is the sound quality. It sounds ‘warmer’ than digital formats, due to it maintaining the sound wave rather than creating thousands of samples of it. Essentially, you lose a fraction of the audio when recording to digital, meaning analogue recordings have a better sound quality. To so called ‘Audiophiles’, this a big deal and gives it an edge over other formats. Vinyl remains the preferred medium for those who want the best listening experience. It’s not just about sound quality though. The sensory experience of putting the needle on the record adds to the enjoyment of the music. Also, the joy of lingering over the liner notes and artwork is something other formats don’t provide nearly as well.
Most of the artists in today’s market who release their albums on vinyl, do so in limited edition runs. The releases are aimed at dedicated fans and collectors, who will pay a premium price for the artist’s content. Some may argue this gives vinyl a shorter shelf life than CD’s but the numbers speak for themselves. This sales model is working. Vinyl has also adapted to the digital age, with most new vinyl releases coming with a digital download code, meaning consumers don’t have to go through an expensive and lengthy process to get the release onto their portable listening device of choice.
The Demand is Rising
These figures show more than anything else that there is still a demand for vinyl and that there has been a big resurgence in the marketplace over the last year. In today’s technology driven age, where even a CD album is seen as disposable (think of the amount of CD’s on magazine covers given away for free), the record has maintained a great deal of value. The culture which began with the birth of vinyl has remained ever since and is in direct opposition to the current trend of music being a medium which isn’t owned, but rather, ‘accessed’. The world’s longest surviving recording format is still going strong and doesn’t show any signs of stopping yet.