Sales Surge For Vinyl Records

Record Store Day in 2018
Mike Pont / Getty Images

The business models for music sales have continued to evolve over time, with the industry shifting in recent years to a model based mostly on subscription streaming services.

But one surprising thing about music is the continuing durability of vinyl records. They haven’t been the dominant format for music for nearly 30 years, but more people are buying vinyl every year.

Sales of vinyl records have not only risen every year for 13 years, but vinyl album sales jumped 14.6 percent in 2018 to 16.8 million, Billboard reported this week, citing Nielsen Music figures. In fact, vinyl records made up more than 19 percent of physical album sales last year.

The numbers also show that people who enjoy old technology also prefer old music. The top-selling artist of vinyl records was The Beatles, a band that broke up in 1970, with the top 10 list dominated by such classic rock acts as Pink Floyd, the late David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, and Queen. Panic! at the Disco and Metallica are among current acts in the top 10. The report also said that the final week of 2018 was the highest-selling week for vinyl records since the start of Nielsen Music tracking in 1991.

As for individual albums, the highest-selling vinyl record of 2018 was Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1, the soundtrack to the 2014 Marvel superhero film that consisted of 1970s and ’80s hits. The rest of the top five individual albums were firmly in rock canon: Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Beatles’ Abbey Road, and Prince’s Purple Rain.

As for the top singles, The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”- a song from 1968 that was re-released to mark its 50th anniversary – was number one with 10,000 copies sold, followed by Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which was released as a single. Prince wrote the song, although it’s better known for the version sung by Sinead O’Connor in 1990.

What’s driving the sales of records? More major retailers, such as Target, have been carrying vinyl of late and even offering exclusives, while the annual Record Store Day in April and Black Friday sales have gotten larger in recent years.

Meanwhile, as records get more popular, more turntables for playing them are becoming available as well. Tech Radar went through what it called the best record players introduced at the International CES electronics show in Las Vegas earlier this month. Their picks included high-end players from Cambridge Audio and Technics, as well as lower-priced models from the likes of Sony and Audio-Technica.