Record Breaking: UK Vinyl Sales At Highest Since Early 90’s

Amrit Virdi

Sales of vinyl LP’s boomed in 2020 as music lovers sought solace in records during lockdown. The highest since the Britpop boom of the early 90’s, nearly one in five (18%) of all albums purchased across the year were vinyl. Amrit Virdi explores the tangible lure and retro-charm of the analog form. 

Despite the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the music industry, and in particular the live music sector, music lovers across the UK have been channelling their spare money into creating carefully curated and individualised record collections. Despite it being a streaming age, vinyl sales have skyrocketed, but what does this mean for the future of music?

Gone (for now) are the days of mosh-pits and screaming the lyrics of your favourite songs in a crowded venue. Instead, the analog age has once again returned, with the alternative to gigging being playing your favourite records in your bedroom with a speaker on full blast. UK vinyl sales broke the £100 million mark by the end of 2020, making for the best year since 1990 when Sinead O’Connor and New Kids on the Block topped the charts, as music fans (myself included) turned to their records as a form of escapism in the crazy world that we live in.

Is the future of music truly analog, or are artists simply using the vinyl revival as a marketing ploy?

But what has instigated the sudden appeal of the physical record? Along with the popularity of cassettes ascending, it seems that, despite the majority of music being listened to digitally via streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music, the future might just be analog. The retro-appeal of vinyl offers an authentic listening experience, making you feel closer to the artist and the song than ever before.

Some may say the sense of ‘ownership’ one may feel towards a physical record personalises the listening experience and shows your true commitment towards an artist. Record collections steadily grow overtime, and for die-hard music fans they can be a way to reconnect with the songs which defined your past. After all, 27% of vinyl buyers are thirty-six or older, therefore there is an entire wealth of personality-shaping LP’s they can collect to form a soundtrack to their lives.

Image of hands looking through vinyl records

But is the future of music truly analog, or are artists simply using the vinyl revival as a marketing ploy? With stores such as Urban Outfitters now stocking vinyl, some argue that along with cassettes, polaroids, and 90’s fashion, records have become a millennial or Gen-Z trend. Stats additionally reveal that 51% of buyers are aged between thirteen and twenty-five. However, as a twenty-year-old vinyl lover myself, this is a stereotype that I thoroughly disagree with.

The vinyl form tends to make for a more genuine audio experience; allowing the listener to appreciate the project from front-to-back and indulge in each of the melodies without the option to digitally skip tracks. Whilst they may be pricey, they have potential to surge in value, so many see them as a worthy investment. Nationwide events such as Record Store Day also offer limited edition LP’s to keep the excitement of the genre alive, as music fans camp for days to get their hands on one-of-a-kind records.

With artists still choosing to release music via vinyl, rest assured that the analog experience will live on

Nearly one-hundred and fifty years after Thomas Edison’s invention of the first phonograph in 1877, the analog affair is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon. However, in line with the technological era in which we live, the authenticity of the physical audio experience fails to overtake the digital giant which is the streaming industry. Revenue from all forms of streaming accounted for 80% of recorded music revenue in 2019, and the single-oriented nature of the industry and viral apps like TikTok, have meant full albums are being listened to less and less. Yet with artists, past and current, still choosing to release music via vinyl and cassettes, rest assured that the analog experience will live on – a relief to vinyl collectors of any age.

Amrit Virdi

Featured image courtesy of Swaminathan Jayaraman via Unsplash. No changes made to this image. Image license found here

Article image courtesy of Florencia Viadana via Unsplash. No changes made to this images.

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