Vinyl sales jumped 39 percent in 2011, music industry not quite dead
By Liza Eckert
There’s been a lot of doom-and-gloom talk in the music industry for several years now. Execs keep blaming internet piracy for slumping sales figures while record stores large and small are closing their doors. But it seems like the industry keeps chugging back, refusing to fully die.
We previously noted a very tiny increase in sales for the first half of 2011 — up one percent compared to the first six months of 2010 — which was the first sales boost since 2004. It seems the good news continued through the rest of the year.
Nielsen SoundScan reported that vinyl records saw a huge bump in sales last year — 3.9 million units, compared to 2.8 million in 2010. That adds up to a 39.3 percent increase.
Vinyl has been slowly crawling back into public consciousness for a few years now, and it’s gone from a hipster-nostalgia thing to a more widespread resurgence. It’s possible to buy albums from some really popular artists on records, as opposed to just the obscure indie acts, which means the medium will naturally have more mass market appeal. And whatever else you might want to say about mass market appeal, the fact is that it will translate into larger sales.
Consumers aren’t stupid. For people to spend money, they have to be getting a product that’s worth it. As the Dead Kennedys said, “Sales are slumping and no one will say why. Could it be they put out one too many lousy records?”
Focusing on putting out higher quality records instead of flash-in-the-pan garbage will help. There were a lot of decent releases in 2011 from a lot of well-known acts, so that had to be a boost.
Records are, in fact, a really good way to keep people actually paying for music instead of pirating it, as well. A lot of fans love the tangible aspect of the format and the accompanying larger-scale artwork. Bands can also include extra incentives to make the deal even sweeter, like bonus tracks or free posters, that aren’t included in other versions. And if they put in a free download code, the listener can also grab a digital copy to load into their iPod.
Events like Record Store Day encourage artists to put out special edition releases, like singles or bonus tracks, that are available in limited quantities in selected stores. It makes people want them, and it’s pretty win-win — the consumer gets unique stuff on top of the album, and the artist gets to actually make a living.
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