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Vinyl revival: Old-school format outpaces digital downloads in U.K. sales

It may seem retro, but that doesn’t mean it’s not raking in the big bucks. According to a recent report from the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), early December marked the first time when vinyl sales topped digital downloads in the U.K. In the first week of the month, vinyl sales hit an impressive $3 million mark, whereas digital downloads capped out at $2.7 million.

This represents a marked shift in consumption habits, as the same time in 2015, vinyl albums were only about a quarter as successful as its digital partner — vinyl albums made $1.5 million in sales, whereas digital downloads made $5.6 million. This role reversal, industry experts say, can be attributed to the rise of streaming services (which has led to the drop in downloads). But what is the reasoning behind the newfound popularity of vinyl? That, the ERA said, could be the holiday effect — now that a number of British supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Tesco stock vinyl, it’s easier than ever to get and gift these nostalgic records.

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“This is yet further evidence of the ability of music fans to surprise us all,” ERA chief Kim Bayley said. “It’s not so long ago that the digital download was meant to be the future. Few would have predicted that an album format, first invented in 1948 and based on stamping a groove into a piece of plastic, would now be outselling it in 2016.”

Of course, we should note that while total sales of vinyl outpaced digital downloads, that doesn’t mean that more vinyl was sold. Because these physical albums are far more expensive than their digital alternative, they  are selling a lower quantity but turning over a greater number in sales. So while vinyl comprised $300,000 more worth in sales, there were 120,000 vinyl albums sold in the first week of December, compared to 295,000 digital downloads.

The ERA noted that the “vinyl revival” has come as a surprise for the industry, particularly seeing as they were all but extinct in 2007. For the last eight years, however, vinyl has been on the up and up. So don’t get rid of that record player — it may come in handy yet.