This decade is only halfway over, but it is well on its way to becoming the decade of vinyl records. For the fourth consecutive year, vinyl sales in the United States hit record levels, surpassing 9 million units for the first time in over 20 years.
WSJ reports that Nielsen Soundscan, which began tracking vinyl sales in 1991, indicates 9.2 million vinyl albums were sold in 2014, a 53 percent increase on the 6.06 million units sold in 2013. Vinyl sales have increased by over 220 percent since the start of the decade. The 9.2 million in sales exceeded earlier estimates of over 7 million.
The highest selling vinyl album of 2014 was Jack White’s Lazaretto, with sales of 87,000; a 56 percent increase on the 49,000 copies Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories sold in 2013.
The discontinuing of the Apple Classic iPod in 2014 — once a standard for digital music consumption — is as good a metaphor as any for the mercurial decline of digital downloads. After experiencing its first year-to-year decrease, digital song sales dipped again, this time by 12.6 percent to 1.1 billion from 1.26 billion last year. If this rate of decrease continues, digital song sales could fall below 1 billion for the first time since 2007.
Full album sales continued to descend in 2014, experiencing a 14 percent decrease over prior year with 257 million albums sold. The top five albums in 2014 were Taylor Swift’s 1989, the Frozen soundtrack, Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, Pentatonix’s That’s Christmas To Me and the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Those five albums sold roughly 10.44 million copies combined, accounting for over four percent of the 257 million total albums sold in 2014. There were well over 125 albums released in 2014, so as album sales continue to decline, the gaps in album sales continues to widen.
The resurgence of vinyl is music to hipster ears, but needle scratching torture for record labels and pressing plants. Existing record pressing machines spent decades sitting dormant or were closed down entirely during the rise of CD’s in the 1990s. As a result, no new record pressers have been made since the early 1980’s. In December 2014, record label Fat Possum started Memphis Record Pressing after having thousands of records go on backorder due to the difficulty of meeting demands and international shipping.
Vinyl is outsmarting father time with every spin.