The Resurgence of Vinyl Continues In 2012 – Record Stores Making a Comeback?
The incessant march of technology takes no prisoners: it’s either upgrade and adapt or rapidly become irrelevant. Such a mantra for modern times finds no better proving ground than in the music industry, which has always been inextricably linked to advances in technology. The digital revolution that swept through in the early part of the millennium, for example, caused a major tectonic shift in the way music is distributed and sold, shaking up both major labels and indies. The decade since this meltdown moment has seen the steady ascendancy of digital music. But while digital sales accounted for 50.3% of all music sales last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a new, quieter revolution is currently afoot.
For the fourth consecutive year, Nielsen reports that more vinyl LPs were purchased than any other year since they began tracking sales in 1991. In 2011, vinyl albums accounted for 3.9 million in sales, exceeding the previous year’s record of 2.8 million LPs, for an increase of 36%. Nielsen even concedes that this number is probably higher because 67% of all vinyl albums were purchased at independent music stores, which often do not employ SoundScan. In terms of the evolution of musical formats, from vinyl to eight-track to cassette to CD to iPod, this embracing of older technology is akin to favoring a horse-drawn buggy over a Ferrari. But it’s happening from the Bay Area to Brooklyn, and mere nostalgia cannot explain why.
“For us, it [vinyl] is the only thing that’s increasing in sales,” says Shane Marcum, of Amoeba in San Francisco, one of the country’s biggest independent record stores. “We’ve had to expand our vinyl section several times over the years due to the increase.”
This trend is mirrored on the manufacturing side as well. Samuel Torrez of EKS Manufacturing in Brooklyn says, “The last two years, we’ve gotten really busy. We’re probably pressing 80-90% more records than we normally do.” Most of his customers, he says, are independent labels.
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