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Vinyl goes from strength to strength

Vinyl goes from strength to strength

On the second of January every year, the BPI (the British Phonographic Industry, basically the RIAA of the United Kingdom) and the Official Charts Company releases details of music sales performance in the previous year. The 2013 sales figures are now in… and they show mixed blessings.

Overall, sales of new music in all its guises achieved in excess of £1bn, which is good news because it shows some stability in recent years (although the figure is markedly down expressed over the longer term). The headline figure from this is that digital streaming (services like Spotify and Deezer) now account for 10 per cent of the total value of the market (£103m, up from £77m in 2012). With these services accounting for a whopping 7.4bn songs played last year, it’s clear that access to music has never been more open for listeners. However, a simple calculation shows that each song played through streamed music providers generated a slightly less whopping 1.4p (technically £0.0135…) for the music business as a whole. The amount of music streamed does not include funds-free streams such as You Tube, but represents effectively a doubling in a single year (3.7bn songs streamed in 2012).

Downloaded albums showed a 6.8 per cent increase on 2012’s figures, with 32.6m albums downloaded, while downloaded single tracks showed a 4.2 per cent drop on last year’s record-breaking figure (175.6m tracks against 183.3m in 2012). Meanwhile physical CD sales were down by 12.8 per cent on the 2012 figures, but CD still accounts for 64 per cent of total music units sold in the UK.

The big success story in music sales continues to be the unceasing vinyl revival. 2013 saw more than 780,000 new LPs sold in the UK; that’s up a remarkable 101 per cent on 2012’s figure and represents the largest annual total vinyl sales since 1997. In addition, the 7” single market grew by 34 per cent in a single year and 12” sales increased by a healthy 60 per cent.

Moving over to the artists, the charts were dominated by compilations (Now That’s What I Cal Music 86 sold 1.1m copies last year) and One Direction (Midnight Memories sold 685,000 copies in six weeks), while the most successful digital album sold was Bad Blood by Bastille and AM by Arctic Monkeys was both the most streamed album and the best selling LP of the year. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. was the most downloaded single of the year.

The BPI’s press release naturally puts a positive spin on all these figures, but there is some comfort to be drawn in places. First, the trend is shifting toward a subscription model, which means people like the idea of having seemingly infinite music to hand. Next is that for all the gloom and doom surrounding CD sales, they still account for the bulk of music sales in the UK. Finally, although a drop in the musical ocean in real world terms, the interest in vinyl seems determined to prove it’s something more than just a fad. A market doubling in a single year is possibly a cause for concern, as it might suggest the bubble is about to burst, but nay-sayers have been expecting the end of the vinyl revival almost as soon as it began, and LP keeps proving them wrong!

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