Is the Vinyl Boom Over? (I Don’t Think So, But…)

We won’t have weekly music sales figures for Canada until tomorrow, but they’ll likely indicate that sales of new vinyl will continue to run about 5% lower than they were at this time last year. The decline, although small, does indicate the first contraction of the vinyl market since this resurrection began about nine years ago.

Naturally, this has some pundits claiming that the vinyl boom is over. I point to this article from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that says high prices and poor quality are driving people away from the format. Again.

I’ll grant that some labels and manufacturers are taking shortcuts by simply transferring a digital file to vinyl, something that inevitably results in a substandard record. Some are using poor quality vinyl or cutting corners on vinyl weight, the exact sort of practices that plagued vinyl records in the late 70s and early 80s. No wonder we couldn’t wait to dump our vinyl for compact discs. And because prices have risen ridiculously, people are no doubt pissed off at a lot of what’s available these days. No wonder the doomsayers are out.

I beg to differ for a number of reasons.

(1) The sale of new vinyl is only part of the equation. The sales figures don’t account for the millions of record that change hands on the used market. My experience has been that record shows have never been more crowded nor interest in sites like eBay and Discogs been greater.

(2) More modern record pressing plants are coming online all over the world, including Canada. These new plants are capable of manufacturing high-quality records. Even Sony is getting back into the pressing game after being out of it for 30 years.

(3) Turntable sales continue to increase.

(4) Record Store Day, a major driver of vinyl sales. was a bit of a disappointment this year. The consensus was that there were too few exciting releases.

Still, there are those who say that a nine-year run is a “fad.” Yes, the straight line upward vector has been disrupted this year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t recover.

Relax, people. Let’s not get all knee-jerk about this.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Is the Vinyl Boom Over? (I Don’t Think So, But…)

  • July 24, 2017 at 8:50 am
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    The price of new vinyl has driven me away. I’ve seeing an average of $30 per new release. (of course, there are exceptions, but this is what I’m seeing in Toronto on average). It’s really hard to get me to pay $30 for the record vs $14 for the cd for a brand new album that I haven’t heard yet.

    Plus, there are no longer steals in the used market, no chance of finding good copies of great albums for under $10.

    All of this has pushed me back to cds.

    Reply
  • July 24, 2017 at 12:16 pm
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    When comparing year over year numbers, it should also take into consideration what was released.. was last year an anomaly with a huge/big release? If so, unless you’ve got something on par for the same time this year it’s reasonable to expect a decline in year over year figures.

    I have a good size library, but my new purchases are new releases by my go-to artists.
    I just don’t have the space to put vinyl for every album I pick up. Anything I don’t pick up on vinyl I’ll either grab on CD or digital.

    I still don’t understand why every vinyl release (new or re-release) is not packaged with a digital download code. That, to me, is a no-brainer – added value at virtually no cost. Most seem to be, but some are not. To this day I don’t have Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark in digital. My CD is an “Enhanced CD” and my computer rejected it – none of the other Iron Maiden albums were rejected, just Fear of the Dark.. so when I picked up the vinyl re-release I was hoping for the download, but nope.

    Reply

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