From Matthew Moore at The Times
Vinyl devotees often argue that the format offers a warmer listening experience than CDs or digital music. Yet research suggests that many LP enthusiasts never actually get round to playing the records they buy.
A fifth of those who buy vinyl records do not have anything on which to listen to them, suggesting that the “vinyl revival” is driven, at least in part, by people who just want to put the sleeves on display in their homes.
More than 4.3 million vinyl LPs were sold in the UK last year, up 4 per cent on the previous year. Sales have grown for 12 consecutive years, and vinyl now accounts for one in every eight physical albums bought in this country.
Why Me? Why Not, the second solo album by the former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, was the bestselling individual vinyl record of the year, shifting 29,000 copies, ahead of When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish, the Californian singer-songwriter.
Reissues of classic albums including Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, from 1977, Abbey Road by the Beatles (1969) and Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (1979) also made the top ten, indicating that vinyl sales are partly driven by completist collectors who already have other ways to listen to the tracks they buy.
The figures are revealed in All About The Music 2020, the annual yearbook produced by the BPI, the umbrella group for UK record labels.
Rob Crutchley, the yearbook’s author, said that the “buy-to-own rather than buy-to-listen” trend had been apparent for some time.
“A proportion of people are buying vinyl because they’re a superfan, so even if they don’t actually have a turntable they’re still keen to support the artist and have the artefact itself,” he said.
“Sometimes it can be because they’re catalogue titles that are being re-pressed in a new edition — maybe a run on a different coloured vinyl — other times it might be a new title that has a limited press on a certain format.”
The BPI data shows that Queen were the year’s biggest-selling vinyl artist, thanks to the continued success of classic titles such as A Night At The Opera and News Of The World, as well as the soundtrack to the Bohemian Rhapsody film. In total the band sold 75,000 vinyl albums last year, nearly three decades after the death of Freddie Mercury.
Overall vinyl sales are at their highest since the early 1990s. The format’s resurgence has coincided with a steady decline in CD sales and an explosion in online music streaming.
Mr Crutchley said: “There is still a strong core of fans who also value the opportunity to acquire, own or gift recorded music on physical format.”
The average vinyl consumer spent £90 a year on records in 2019, up 10 per cent in a year.
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