Last year was a good one for the sales of vinyl in Canada. According to SoundScan, slightly more than one million united were sold, up 27% from the year before. That’s very healthy–but not as healthy as reality.
SoundScan is the point-of-purchase system that only counts a record sold once the bar code is scanned at checkout. Since each record is handled and counted one by one, that should yield a very accurate accounting of how many LPs are sold, right?
Actually, no. In order for a record sale to be counted by SoundScan, it has to be sold in a store that is connected to the SoundScan system.
Take Sunrise Records, for example. Because the company’s 82 Canadian stores are all SoundScan outlets, we’re really confident that Sunrise sold about 500,000 pieces of vinyl in 2018. The other half-million were sold through other SoundScan-equipped stores.
Beyond those retailers, things get very murky, leading to a gross under reporting of the actual amount of vinyl sold in this country.
- Most independent record stores don’t report to Nielsen SoundScan. Some of these retailers sell tons of vinyl, none of which are captured by the industry’s most-used sales tracking software.
- Sales of used vinyl aren’t counted either. How many hundreds of thousands of used records change hands at record shops, record shows and online each year? Answer: tons.
- Vinyl sold at the merch table at a gig isn’t counted by SoundScan.
So how much vinyl is actually being sold these days? That’s really, really hard to tell, but estimates that the true number is 50-60% higher than the official SoundScan total. That would put Canadian sales at around 1.6 million.
In the US, the official total for 2018 was just over 10.4 million. The true number? More like 15-16 million.
Vinyl a fad? Hardly.