Industry Experts Say Vinyl Explosion Isn't Slowing Down Anytime Soon
In a brand new discussion at the New Music Seminar, experts from all areas of the vinyl industry, from production to marketing, discussed the 260% growth over the past five years and why it will continue to grow.
SoundScan, the Nielsen company which tracks how many vinyl albums are sold, calculated that almost 9.2 million were sold in 2014. However, most experts on the vinyl panel agreed that the real number was higher. Steve Sheldon, president of a company which manufactures vinyl, said "If there were only 9 million records sold last year, then I printed 7 million of them. I estimate the number sold was closer to 32 million."
There was disagreement with that number, as many experts were quick to point out that a record manufactured does not necessarily mean a record bought. Also, the 32 million number is not taking into account any double albums.
Amidst all this uncertainty one thing was clear: the vinyl business will take some more time to get organized. Because the seemingly random explosion in sales began only in 2009, most facets of this industry aren't equipped to handle a demand increase of 50% every year.
"Most of our equipment is 30-40 years old. In order for the vinyl industry to keep up with demand, we would need 40-50 new presses worldwide," Sheldon says. The problem is these presses are very expensive, and with vinyl only growing since 2009, investors are hesitant to splurge cash on something that might die out in the next decade.
However, Bryan Burkert, owner of two massive vinyl stores based in Baltimore and New York, says that vinyl will continue to grow. "It seems that vinyl skipped a generation...I've got 14, 15, 16-year-old girls in my store all the time."
Billy Fields of Warner Music Group explained that while vinyl will continue to grow, it's not for everyone. "Vinyl will always be a niche market" Fields says. But Fields echoed the sentiments from other panels at NMS saying that vinyl and streaming are not mutually exclusive. "People make the mistake of thinking that you either are streaming music or you're buying vinyl. In fact, many people will discover albums they love via Pandora or Spotify and then go out and buy them on vinyl. Nothing can compete with a physical copy."
Fields offered a wealth of insight into this world, but one remark he made reminded everyone that NMS 2015, behind all the press passes and PowerPoint presentations, is about the music.
"In this world of smartphones and rapidly changing technology, it's almost impossible to live in the moment. I think that second when you pick up the tone arm and are about to drop it onto the record, when all you're thinking about is the music that is coming next, that's the most in the moment we can get."