Why vinyl is more popular than ever

Story highlights You’ll find a vinyl collection from around the world, designed by one of four familiar beats.

With retailers across the United States reporting slowing sales growth, some artists are backing out of plans to release their albums on vinyl.

It looks like vinyl can make waves, too.

The format’s resurgence is hitting a record stride, as records continue to see steady growth across the United States. Nearly 8.5 million singles and nearly 2.4 million records were sold in June, marking the highest monthly vinyl sales on record, according to Nielsen Music.

At the end of 2018, 77 million albums were sold in the U.S., down slightly from the prior year. But if you add up vinyl sales, they’re up nearly 30% from last year. So not only are people flocking to vinyl now, they’re buying several albums at a time.

“A lot of the growth we’re seeing is through customer choice,” says Dan DiDio, senior vice president of merchandising for Planet Blue Note Records, an imprint of Sony Music Entertainment. “We’ve seen that customers are buying single albums at almost double the rate of what they were buying two years ago.”

And if the consumers buying vinyl can help retailers, of course.

No surprise: Amazon and iTunes are both growing at a double-digit pace. Not even iTunes, which closed its physical-music store last year, is left in the game as Spotify continues to gobble up market share.

For this reason, labels are having to up their game and bolster the act. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, where streaming is still relatively new, the reigning champion remains the blue needle.

“We’ve seen it across the globe — artist enthusiasm, record companies’ love of the format, vinyl disc players popping up everywhere and lots of interest in the format from fans, DJs and vendors,” says Taylor Cain, a vinyl buyer for CD and vinyl store The Vintage Collective.

In addition to emerging music and artists, vinyl has seen its most interesting resurgence among culture stars, including songwriter Ed Sheeran and UK musician and style icon Elbow, both of whom released albums on vinyl this past year.

“It’s the continued popularity of music and culture and audiophiles’ passion for it that are making records a commodity,” Cain says. “And it’s that passion, combined with the high-quality image that is so authentic for vinyl, that continues to make a few acts — people like Elbow — want to add it to their sets and tours.”

Not every label is satisfied with a diamond-in-the-rough indie artist releasing a sound entirely off the charts. Not all artists are in it for the long haul; some simply want to play around with the format and spice up the sales numbers.

Not enough?

There’s a category of artist that has just enough to stake a claim on everything.

They’re artists that are coming up on the radar but have yet to really take over — or who are already well-established, but want to peel away a few more fans with every chapter of their careers.

“It’s kind of the next level of R&B, rap and hip-hop,” Cain says. “As long as they’re helping to get a record and seeing the label support them in those markets, the sales numbers will always increase.”

That category includes services like Mykonos, a service that aggregates vintage and new vinyl for users. It offers up a catalog of music and fans can pick tracks from it — or simply listen to the album in its entirety.

“This is why you should be buying vinyl,” reads a recent tweet from Mykonos. “Need I say more?”

It’s true.

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