Vinyl album sales in the UK have exceeded the one million mark this year for the first time since the 90s Britpop era as “classic rock” fans snap up physical copies of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd records.
The vinyl revival has reached a new highpoint, with 2014 sales passing the million mark last weekend, according to Official Charts data – the first time that milestone has been passed since 1996.
Whilst the music industry is adapting to a largely digital future, the attraction of a heavyweight 12” package, complete with artwork and sleeve-notes, has lured older record-buyers back to stores alongside a new generation of “hipster” collectors.
There are three re-released Led Zeppelin albums and two Pink Floyd opuses, including their new release The Endless River, in the 2014 vinyl top ten. Arctic Monkeys and Jack White are the top-sellers, confirming vinyl’s renewed popularity with contemporary music fans.
The 2014 sale figure is already comfortably ahead of the 780,674 sales posted in 2013. With the Christmas trading period still to come, music industry body BPI predicts the final total for 2014 will rise towards a figure of 1.2m unit sales – a level of vinyl consumption not seen since 1996, when 1,083,206 LPs were purchased.
Fittingly, the best-selling vinyl LP last week was David Bowie’s new career retrospective, Nothing Has Changed.
Vinyl is still a niche business, accounting for 2% of the UK recorded music market. Last week’s vinyl number one, Floyd’s The Endless River, sold just 6,000 copies, even though this was highest tally of any LP released since 1997.
Artists see a vinyl release as a “badge of honour” with even One Direction releasing their new Four collection in the format. The primary purchasers are rock fans however and a new crop of bands led by Royal Blood and indie group Temples are joining the heritage acts among the year’s best-sellers.
One vinyl shopper surveyed by the BBC at the Rough Trade East record store in East London, said: “I think it’s sort of a hipster thing. Things that were cool decades ago, but fell out of fashion, are making a comeback.”
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Major labels can also sell heavyweight vinyl albums, promising an excellent sound reproduction when played on the right hi-fi equipment, for up to £25 to a hard-core of physical music buyers.
Martin Talbot, Official Charts Chief Executive, said: “In scoring the biggest opening week for a vinyl album this millennium, The Endless River illustrates the British public’s renewed love for this format, which is on course to become a £20m business this year – an incredible turnaround from barely £3m just five years ago. This resurgence also underlines music fans’ continuing fascination with the album.”
Gennaro Castaldo of the BPI said: “We have entered an exciting best-of-all-worlds era where there is space and scope for all kinds of music to be discovered and enjoyed in every type of way, including on vinyl once again.
“Many of us assumed it had become an obsolete format, but while the flame may have flickered, it never quite went out, and we are now seeing a burgeoning resurgence in demand led by exciting new acts such as Royal Blood that is likely to keep vinyl on our high streets for many more years to come.”
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