David Bowie leads vinyl sales - but new release LPs increase market share

David Bowie leads vinyl sales - but new release LPs increase market share

New analysis from the BPI has revealed that new music is making its mark on vinyl sales.

According to the figures, new albums increased their share of the UK’s vinyl LP market in 2021. Nearly 43% of LP sales last year were for albums released during the calendar year, compared to 30% in 2020.

A series of blockbuster releases from ABBA, Adele and Ed Sheeran helped reduce the dominance of catalogue sales last year. The sales data was highlighted in All About The Music 2022 – the 43rd edition of the BPI Yearbook. 

Between them, ABBA’s Voyage, Adele’s 30 and = by Ed Sheeran cumulatively accounted for over 100,000 vinyl LP purchases in 2021 and were among the format’s five biggest sellers of the year, according to Official Charts Company data. 

Two other albums released during the year  – Chemtrails Over The Country Club by Lana Del Rey and Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice – also made the year’s Top 10, while the 20 biggest sellers included 2021 titles from Sam Fender, Royal Blood, Coldplay and Billie Eilish

These successes helped to lift the share of LP sales made up of new releases from 30% in 2020 to 42.9% in 2021. Another 5.5% of LPs sold in 2021 were for albums that were released the previous year. Overall, vinyl sales rose last year for a 14th consecutive year, increasing by 10.6% to 5.3 million units.

Despite the key growth in the popularity of new albums, BPI research based on Official Charts Company data shows that catalogue titles still accounted for the majority of vinyl LP sales. 

Defined here as albums released in or prior to 2019, catalogue titles made up 51.6% of all LP sales, compared to 60.9% in 2020. Music Week revealed the value contribution of vinyl catalogue in our analysis of ERA statistics.

Five of the year’s Top 10 were catalogue albums, ranging in vintage from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours from 1977 to Harry Styles’ Fine Line, which was released in 2019. Classic LPs by Queen, Amy Winehouse and Nirvana also made the year’s Top 10, while the Top 20 LPs of the year included releases by Pink Floyd and Arctic Monkeys, whose AM was the biggest independent album of 2021 despite being released in 2013.

The LP’s seemingly unstoppable resurgence has been one of the industry’s great success stories of recent times

Geoff Taylor

Reissues and archive material helped David Bowie to finish again as the year’s top-selling vinyl artist, ahead of The Beatles. 

In a vinyl snapshot earlier this year, Music Week had Bowie at No.3 overall based on the top 10,000 sellers of 2021, but he ultimately managed to finish at No.1 across total vinyl LP consumption. Bowie was also No.1 in 2020 and is on top for 21st century vinyl sales.

While Bowie’s substantial and consistent sales are down to his incredible catalogue, he made an impact earlier this year with a new album release, Toy, which had been recorded more than two decades earlier.

According to Music Week analysis, Bowie’s Toy Box edition is the biggest physical seller of his for the year to date with 10,086 units (total sales 11,352). David Bowie’s limited edition Toy EP, released for Record Store Day, is pushing for the Top 20 this week. 

The streaming-powered Legacy collection is the biggest overall so far in 2022 with sales of 34,683. It has total sales of 723,804. 

Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is No.3 so far in 2022, with sales of 9,099 (including 4,378 physical copies),

During 2021, the Top 10 vinyl artists had a strong female showing led by Taylor Swift at No. 3. Lana Del Rey and Adele also made the Top 10, alongside mixed-gender groups ABBA and Fleetwood Mac.

Rock remained the dominant genre for LP sales, making up 60.0% of the market, down slightly from 61.1% the year before. The biggest sellers on the format included albums by bands such as Mogwai, The Lathums and The Snuts who last year all reached No. 1. 

Pop claimed 18.9% of LP sales, up from 16.9% in 2020, and Hip-Hop/Rap’s share grew from 4.6% to 4.7%.

CD still dominates album purchases

While catalogue still rules vinyl, new releases dominate the biggest-selling CDs.

All of 2021’s 10 biggest-selling albums on CD were released during the calendar year. These were led by Adele’s 30 which sold more than 150,000 CDs in a single week last year and became the only album to top 400,000 sales on the format by year end. 

Prior to 30, Ed Sheeran’s = and then ABBA’s Voyage took it in turn to be the year’s fastest-selling CD and also finished among 2021’s top three CD sellers. 

The year’s top four titles collectively accounted for more than a million CD sales, while the top 100 titles were each purchased more than 15,000 times. CD made up 58.7% of all album purchases in 2021, compared to 59.4% in 2021.

Cassette sales reach 18-year high

While the cassette market is far smaller than those for vinyl and CD, a significant number of artists and labels are now offering fans the chance to buy albums on this format (even if they may remain unplayed). 

Over 30 titles sold more than 1,000 copies on cassette in their first week in 2021, while new albums by Dave, Wolf Alice and Coldplay sold over 5,000 copies in their week of release. 

They were all among the year’s 10 biggest cassette sellers, a list headed by Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour and also including albums by Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish and Demi Lovato. 

Although starting from a small base, annual cassette sales increased last year by 4,750% since 2012 to reach over 185,000 units, their highest level since 2003.

Despite the dominance of streaming, which made up 83.1% of recorded music consumption in the UK in 2021, 20 million physical albums were sold during the year. 

Although the physical market was down overall, its year-on-year decline slowed sharply from nearly 25% to 5.5%. There were also annual rises for LPs (up 10.6%) and cassette (up 18.5%).

Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “Even though streaming accounts for more than four-fifths of consumption of recorded music in the UK, the continuing demand for vinyl, CDs and cassettes highlights the extensive range of choices fans now have to access their favourite music. 

“The LP’s seemingly unstoppable resurgence has been one of the industry’s great success stories of recent times and it is fantastic to see an increasing part of this revival is down to new releases. And, while the LP tends to grab the limelight when it comes to physical product, we should not forget the CD remains an extremely important format for the industry, making up nearly 60% of album purchases in the UK last year.”

Top Selling Vinyl Artists 2021 – Official Charts Company                                                                                                             

1 David Bowie  

2 The Beatles

3 Taylor Swift

4 Pink Floyd


6 Fleetwood Mac

7 Lana Del Rey

8 Oasis

9 Arctic Monkeys

10 Adele


Official Vinyl Albums Chart 2021 – Official Charts Company                                                                                                            

1 ABBA – Voyage

2 Adele – 30

3 Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

4 Ed Sheeran – =

5 Amy Winehouse – Back To Black    

6 Nirvana – Nevermind

7 Queen – Greatest Hits

8 Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club

9 Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

10 Harry Styles – Fine Lin


Official CD Albums Chart  2021 – Official Charts Company                                                                                                            

1 Adele – 30

2 ABBA – Voyage

3 Ed Sheeran – =

4 Coldplay – Music Of The Spheres

5 Rag’n’Bone Man – Life By Misadventure

6 Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Music 108

7 Elton John – The Lockdown Sessions

8 Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Music 110

9. Various Artists – Now That’s What I Call Music 109

10 Rod Stewart – The Tears Of Hercules


Official Cassette Albums Chart  2021 – Official Charts Company?                                                                                                         

1 Olivia Rodrigo – Sour  

2 Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together 

3 Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club

4 Queen – Greatest Hits

5 Coldplay – Music Of The Spheres

6 Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend 

7 Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

8 Elton John – The Lockdown Sessions

9 Demi Lovato – Dancing With The Devil: The Art Of Starting Over

10 Ed Sheeran – =


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