Vinyl Sales Double In One Year, Driving Growth In Physical Album Sales

Vinyl sales have doubled since last year, according to MRC Data’s 2021 U.S. Midyear Report.

Overall consumption grew 13.5% year-over-year (YOY) during the first six months of 2021, thanks to a 15% increase in on-demand audio streaming.

And, for the first time at the midyear point in MRC Data’s history (since 1991), vinyl album sales actually outpaced CD album sales — with vinyl album volume at 19.2 million versus CD album volume at 18.9 million.

Vinyl’s 108.2% YOY increase also allowed total industry physical albums to experience its first year of growth in years.

The numbers reflect long-term trends in the growth of streaming, the decline of interest in CDs and renewed interest in vinyl as a format. But the spike in vinyl sales is also leading to material shortages, manufacturing backlogs and delayed releases.

Some recent vinyl releases have lagged their CD and digital releases by 6 months or more, while CDs can have turnaround of about 2 weeks. At this point, vinyl sales are being limited by the fact that there is not enough manufacturing capacity to meet demand. This means that independent artists may struggle to get their music released on vinyl, too, as more capacity gets tied up with major-label releases.

46 thoughts on “Vinyl Sales Double In One Year, Driving Growth In Physical Album Sales

  1. This growth, unfortunately, is fueled by people buying “lifestyle” records on Amazon and the like. All the records you could find for 99 cents for a couple decades. I say “unfortunately”, because these major label reissues and new releases take precedent at the pressing plants over independent releases, and it’s putting smaller companies and artists in bad positions.

    1. Sounds like you long for the good old days when you could really find lots of really good bargainrecords, A lot of people today enjoy buying records eirher to listen to or to collect, nothing wrong doing either.

  2. Who would have thought that vinyl albums would make a comeback.

    Vinyl records aren’t the only things coming back. That’s why I’m taking classes in VCR repair. Im going to start my own VCR repair business.

    1. It never went away. That is a mainstream music perspective. Almost every well known electronic artist from the 90’s (that is at least when I started listening to Warp Records, Rephlex etc..) onwards has had a strong vinyl presence from then right up until now.

      Large stores like Tower never stopped selling vinyl

      If you have a set of decks (technics 1200 or other) then you’d be utterly confounded by anyone who said it ever “went away”. If anything it got bigger. Just that the artists perhaps were more numerous and less well known outside of underground music circles.

  3. I wish the music community would make a stronger effort to fade out toxic and wasteful media such as vinyl and cassettes. In the face of climate change we can’t really afford clinging to outdated technology just to make a lifestyle statement or cater our artist egos. It’s selfish, and as long as we keep consuming these types of products, the music industry (including the many indie artists who keep releasing music on vinyl and cassettes) will not see a reason to come up with more eco-friendly alternatives.

    1. I’d say 90% of vinyl collectors are just that. Collectors. Records don’t get just thrown away. They are the most resold items on the planet. In the 80s and 90s there was a glut of vinyl that is worthless as is wasn’t great quality, or just so cheap and easy to produce. Most vinyl now is pressed in a limited number. I have records that I started collecting in 1990. I’m still buying records I wanted from the 80s that were made in the 80s. Not a repress. Your heart is in the right place, but vinyl is not really a huge issue in the destruction of natural resources.

      1. I keep hearing this argument, and my response is always the same: 100% of the vinyl pressed today will eventually end up on a landfill. For your grandchildren, your precious record collection will very likely be just garbage. Apart from the fact that there is practically no safe way to dispose old vinyl, the main issue is the wasteful production process and the toxicity of the material itself. I get that people love to collect physical objects, but we should make sure these objects are safe and climate-friendly.

        1. Your post seems a little hypocritical, given that it was written on a computer that will end up in a landfill far sooner than current production vinyl records. It will also release far more toxic chemicals than a piece of vinyl ever will. That is not even touching on the production processes. . .

          1. That is true, but I absolutely need a computer to do my job. I don’t need vinyl. That’s why I stopped buying it and why will never produce it. I didn’t ask anyone to follow my example, and I am not telling anyone what to do. And even if I am hypocritical, it doesn’t make vinyl any better. The thing is, climate change can only be battled when every single one of us accepts a little more responsibility. One small thing that we the music community can do is to stop producing toxic waste and shipping it around the world. It’s not that big of a sacrifice given what is at stake.

            1. Plenty of people need vinyl to do their job, too. Like musicians who rely on vinyl sales to make a living, or the technicians that print them. Why is your job more important than theirs?

              1. That’s a false argument, and I am sure you know it. I never said my job is more important than anyone else’s (whatever that means), and it’s not relevant to the topic I was talking about either. No artist I have met or even heard of relies on vinyl sales to make a living since 2005.

                1. It’s not a false argument. If it’s okay for you to use a computer for your job, why is it wrong for someone else to use a record press for theirs?

                  Welcome to 2021, where in much of the West it is illegal to host indoor performances. You are posting a comment on an article describing vinyl sales shot yo 100% year over year, in part due to marketing shifts caused by a viral pandemic. That’s real money in the pockets of artists (and studios, and technicians, and ++) at a time when not much else might be working.

                  If we are talking personal anecdotes, I do know people who pay rent with cassette and vinyl sales.

                  1. You are using a faulty analogy, set up both a Red Harring and a Strawman fallacy and finally appeal to pity. So yeah, false arguments all over the place and you know it, at least I hope so.

                    You say that if it is okay for me to use a computer to do my job, it therefore must be okay for the vinyl plant owner to use their record press because making records is their job. By that logic, everything anyone ever does must be automatically legit if they make a living from it. Clearly not the case.

                    Also, this argument is not about record press owners or artists, but about toxic PVC records. The record press owner can switch to eco-friendlier green vinyl or recycled vinyl, and the artist can sell those instead of PVC. They are not part of the problem, but they can chose to be part of the solution. And that is what I was initially *wishing* all of us to do.

                    Over and out, have a wonderful day.

                    1. “By that logic, everything anyone ever does must be automatically legit if they make a living from it. Clearly not the case.”

                      It’s you who is setting up a strawman argument. We are talking niche creative media, not automobiles, aviation or meat production.

                      I see no problem with moving to cleaner materials to replace PVC in records. But instead of whinging on about “outdated technology just to make a lifestyle statement or cater our artist egos”, you could actually propose some useful alternatives. What are currently available material replacements for PVC? Who is producing these, and in what quantities? What is the frequency response in comparison to 180g PVC vinyl? What is the cost difference, and what do the consumers think?

                      Like… actually helpful and intelligent suggestions…

                2. Also, buying vinyl is better for climate change than having an Applemusic or Amazon Music subscription! If you plan to listen to a song more than 25 times, the energy consumed by the computer used to store it and play it is more than what was used to make the record!!

        2. I doubt very many of todays records will end up in landfills. I think they will be around for a very long time as people really enjoy buying and collecting records and that is probably not gonna change in a long time. I think that unwanted records rather will be burnt and turned into ebergy rather than put in landfills.

        3. DJ Tripp makes a very good point. Also, have you think of what others formats means in terms of pollution, toxicity, energy consumption and so on? Streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, etc have their tons of music on tons of servers which takes tons of space and energy consumption, plugged 24/7 all year long.

          I think by the end of the day vinyl can be very “healthy” in comparison with other formats, they last long, they are “liquid” as they flow through different owners very easily, they can be reused for other purposes, they supply much more impact in money and presence to artists and bands, and (very important) they increase the musical and sonic experience in a very great way.

      2. Indeed! I remember routinely finding the guts of 8-track and cassette tapes littering the roadside. I’ve also seen plenty of CDs (often of the AOL variety), both unbroken and in shards, almost anywhere. Vinyl, anecdotally at least, does not trigger my recollection in the same way. Also, record jackets and album covers are usually pretty compostable compared to nearly all CD and cassette cases.

        But the infrastructure required by our digital world today is pretty well hidden away from us, especially the waste and impacts of foreign manufacturing of computer components and systems, and the massive energy consumption of data centers.

        Vinyl remains just about the only way to listen to audio recordings with a minimal amount of electronic complexity (and can be heard with nothing but a sewing needle and a piece of paper spindled into a cone if necessary). Looking back, it’s no wonder it has endured – despite the many doubts that it would survive the digital era.

        Just about the last thing I am hung up about is the environmental impact of vinyl records.

      1. I think every community has to do their part and take responsibility, and our community happens to make music, not water bottles. A big part of the problem is that we keep expecting other people to change, but are not willing to change ourselves.

          1. Are you telling me to kill myself because I don’t like to waste the planet you and your kids live on? Does this attitude usually work out for you in life?

        1. Your opinion that LPs are toxic waste seems pretty extreme.

          You could argue that paintings are toxic waste, because pigments in artist’s paints have toxic metals in them. And artists could share a gif without the need to use toxic chemicals or to use gas to move the physical art around the world.

          Or you could argue that live performances are contributing to global warming, because they encourage everybody to congregate in a single place when they could just watch the performance as a live stream.

          And at some level, you might be technically correct.

          But for most of us, art is a thing. Performances are an experience that have unique value.

          And LPs are a type of art.

          We value them because they’re a tangible thing that you can listen to, you can look at and and you can appreciate as a complete work. They are a way of connecting with artists you love in a deeper way and a way to support the artists that you love.

          You’re not going to make that same sort of connection from a gif of a painting, from a video of a performance or from an MP3 floating around the Internet.

          So I can’t imagine getting so hung up on minute negative impacts of art that you negate the positives.

          1. Music is art, LPs are a product. They are mostly just produced as a form of promotion, and artists in many scenes still see them as a way to gain credibility. I know from first hand experience that labels often trash vast amounts of unsold vinyl after sitting on it for ages, and they only produce it in the first place to give out a few copies to DJs, sell some to collectors and make their artists feel relevant. The few records held by loving collectors are not the issue, but the vinyl industry that is working hard on its mainstream comeback. I love collecting second hand vinyl and tape too, but I really don’t want to see cheap records flooding Urban Outfitters. At least not until someone comes up with an eco-friendly alternative to PVC records that can be produced locally in small badges.

    2. Do you have any idea how much energy is used to support the technological infrastructure for a single streaming service?

    1. Could be worse! But seriously I doubt that those records total sales even comes close to 1% every year. More likely far less than that.

      1. Plus you’d only have to worry about that if you were getting your records pressed at Optimal in Germany (Pink Floyd) or Pallas US/Germany (Fleetwood Mac).

  4. With half the country being too stupid to take a vaccine during a pandemic, I say bring back yummy transfats, muscle cars with no seat belts and pointy metal lawn darts. By the time I learned what a carbon footprint was, mine was already Kong-sized. We’re human landfill, so heeeey, party on, Darth.

    When I was a dedicated LP buyer, I always taped the first 2 or 3 playings. With imports or audiophile pressings in particular, it was the best way to preserve their higher powers. If you’re going to do vinyl now, consider workable personal backups for the more golden finds. I did my turn, trying to get pet hair, dead skin and finger oils out of vinyl grooves. I’ll take my flash drives and say thanks.

    1. The great thing about getting older is that you lose high end hearing. I might as well play my LPs 100 times, coz I can’t hear what’s missing anymore.

  5. I wonder how much of this vinyl comes from digital master recordings. Likely most so I’ll stick with my CD collection.

  6. Long live vinyl which I will pass on down to my grand children, and for all those conscientious environmental musicians then be rid of your evil electronic computers and synths and take up the bamboo flute. 😉

    1. What makes you think your grandchildren will have any interest in your scratched vinyls from bands they never heard of. It’s an illusion. 😉

  7. Its not a story about how much vinyl is selling

    its a story about how much CDs (lol) are NOT selling

    but hey – dont let that stop you now

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