After the annus horribilis that was 2020, it probably came as no surprise to Canadian music lovers that sales of vinyl records took a dive over those 12 months.
When the official year-end numbers were tallied by MRC Data, sales of vinyl in Canada were down by 12.9 per cent in 2020. This was the first decline in vinyl’s fortunes since the beginning of the format’s resurrection in 2008.
Some vinyl fans — including me, by the way — were afraid that the era of the LP was once again over. And there was plenty of blame to go around.
COVID-19 had to be a culprit, of course, with lockdowns, closed stores, and music fans stuck at home. Streaming was far more convenient and cheaper. On-demand audio streams increased by 16.1 per cent over 2019 to more than 88 billion.
Consumers continued to shun CDs with sales falling by 48.4 per cent for the year. Vinyl seemed to be caught in the same downdraft.
Fingers were pointed at record labels for charging way too much for new releases. Who in their right mind would charge $35 or more for a single vinyl album? The same album on CD cost less than half that.
Buying patterns were disrupted when the annual Record Store Day in April was postponed and moved to several other dates later in the year.
By late summer, vinyl sales across Canada were trending a whopping 26 per cent below where they were a year earlier. Multiple Record Store Days, Black Friday, and the Christmas season were able to erase more than half that deficit but we still ended up buying less: 899,931units in 2020 vs. 1,033,582 in 2019.
Was it possible that after more than a dozen years of double-digit, year-over-year growth, the market for vinyl was saturated? Where Canadians were tapping out? It sure felt like it.