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BLAST FROM THE PAST

Taylor Sets Vinyl Record as Format Surges

So what’s the latest X-factor affecting nearly every major release in the biz, an unanticipated phenomenon that’s triggering sales, determining album dates and is so heavily in demand that there’s a several-month wait? It’s not an application, platform or some new technology like NFTs; vinyl is back, and business is booming.

Taylor Swift is demonstrating the format’s ever-increasing potency right now as she rides record-breaking vinyl sales—around 100k—to the top of the album chart with the resurgent evermore; she's sold more vinyl albums in a single week than anyone in the modern chart era, handily passing the 40,000 mark established by Jack White with Lazaretto in 2014.

Six months into 2021, vinyl sales have nearly doubled 2020 sales figures. Last year, vinyl sold 27.5m units. The current rate suggests sales could reach 55 million by the end of 2021. It’s also running neck and neck with the compact disc as the best-selling physical-product configuration, having surpassed CDs until recently: Through May, CDs had moved 15.1m units YTD while vinyl LPs had sold 14.9m. Revenue-wise, vinyl’s higher retail prices and profit margins make it by far the more lucrative configuration. 

The resurgence in vinyl sales has created a traffic jam in manufacturing. Labels and distributors—allotted a certain number of vinyl pressings each year—are parceling out their vinyl supplies extremely carefully, with the biggest acts getting the biggest slices of the pie, of course. When fans order vinyl for a new release, they’re likely to have to wait from three to six months for the order to be fulfilled and shipped. 

Vinyl’s importance goes beyond catalog titles as multiple generations are consistently consuming this 20th century format decades after its heyday—and the sales figures prove it. Among the top-sellers for the year so far are albums by Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Swift, Ariana Grande and Tyler, The Creator. Legacy acts are also moving major units, including titles from Michael Jackson, Prince, The Beatles, Queen and Bob Marley. And millennial favorites like Lana Del Rey, Mac Miller, SZA and Kacey Musgraves are also among the sales leaders this year. 

Insiders expect Eilish to move considerable vinyl when her highly anticipated sophomore album drops at the end of July.

 

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