David Bowie's Blackstar album being sold for up to £900 after pressing plants overwhelmed by demand

Seven-track Blackstar has been identified by fans as his epitaph

Adam Sherwin
Media Correspondent
Friday 22 January 2016 15:37 GMT
On his 69th birthday, Blackstar, a resolutely experimental new album, appeared
On his 69th birthday, Blackstar, a resolutely experimental new album, appeared

Vinyl copies of David Bowie’s final album Blackstar are being sold for up to £900 after pressing plants were overwhelmed by demand for the record, following the star’s death.

Released three days before Bowie’s death from cancer was announced, the seven-track Blackstar was identified by fans as his epitaph.

With just 5,000 copies of the clear vinyl edition sent to stores on the week of its January 8 release, Blackstar has already become a sought-after rarity among collectors.

As the album soared to number one, a further 6,000 vinyl copies, initially sold for around £30, were made available but those too were an instant sell-out.

Collectors soon began to cash in on the limited edition release. Copies were placed on the auction site eBay, fetching in excess of £400.

David Bowie vinyl in demand

A Canadian purchaser placed a vinyl edition, containing three lithograph prints and lyric book on the site for $1,2500 (£875).

The shortage has hit music’s biggest retailers, including Amazon, which is offering a double-disc black vinyl version for £21.78 with the message: “Expedited delivery when in stock.”

Although vinyl album sales surged by 65% in 2015 to 2.1m records, the highest figure in 21 years, there is limited capacity to press up the records, which are labour-intensive and expensive to produce.

The UK has only two large-scale vinyl pressing plants left and most large orders are sent to factories in central Europe – the world’s biggest producer is the GZ Vinyl plant in a village outside Prague, which manufactures 14 million records a year but faces a six-month queue of orders.

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Sources said Sony, Bowie’s record company, did not anticipate demand for vinyl copies of the jazz-influenced record, which was heralded as an intriguing return to his experimental best even before the star’s death.

UK pressing plants are also at capacity producing limited edition releases for Record Store Day in April, the global event credited with revitalising the vinyl industry. Big name artists sanction exclusive vinyl releases which are often destined to be sold on at auction sites.

Longstanding fans of Bowie, who approved a number of special versions of his back catalogue, could be sitting on a vinyl goldmine. Record Collector’s Rare Record Price Guide puts mint copies of Bowie’s self-title debut from 1967 at £800, while top quality copies of 1971’s The Man Who Sold The World fetch around £700.

Ian McCann, Record Collector editor said: “With Record Store Day coming up on April 16 and the manufacturing capacity occupied producing product for it, Sony have found themselves overwhelmed with fans wanting Blackstar but scant means to produce it quickly enough.

“The format’s ongoing revival has caught the business with its trousers down, because most of them closed their own presses years ago. Britain’s pressing plants are already stretched to their limit.”

Mr McCann added: “However many are eventually produced, the first pressing of Blackstar, and especially the clear vinyl deluxe edition, will always have collector cachet. In a few months, once demand has settled down, a mint-condition copy Blackstar will still command a decent price.”

A statement on the website of online vinyl retailer Norman Records, said: “Sony have told us that, as things stand, they cannot supply the quantities we need to cover our sales of this item from their initial pressing. Feel free to place an order for it but please expect significant delays in shipping as the inevitable and necessary re-pressings will take time.”

The BBC announced it has become an official partner of Record Store Day, now in its ninth year. 6 Music DJs Steve Lamacq and Lauren Laverne will present special shows around the event.

Blackstar retained its position at the top of the UK albums chart, selling a further 81,000 copies and was joined in the top ten by the 2002 retrospective Best of Bowie and his 2014 album, Nothing Has Changed. A further six Bowie albums feature in this week’s Top 40.

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