Vinyl destination: Can the format's sales growth continue in 2023?

Vinyl destination: Can the format's sales growth continue in 2023?

Vinyl recorded a 15th year of growth in 2022 and overtook CD in terms of revenue for the first time in 35 years.

Vinyl has been a good news story for the music industry, but the format has faced persistent challenges with production capacity. Its continuing success is all the more vital given the collapse in CD sales - physical music did not see its usual gifting season boost at Christmas.

In our latest edition, Music Week has spoken to major label execs and Kim Bayley, CEO of ERA. 

For the first five weeks of 2023, Music Week can reveal that vinyl sales are up 15.6% year-on-year. The format topped 100,000 sales for four out of those five weeks, including strong performances by the reissue of Courteeners’ debut St Jude (10,959 vinyl sales so far), The Reytons’ independently released What’s Rock And Roll? (5,850 vinyl sales across numerous editions) and Taylor Swift’s Midnight’s (a further 4,628 on the format in 2023).

According to ERA, 2022 vinyl album sales revenue grew 11% to £150.5m, while CD album sales fell 17.4% to £124m - the first time vinyl outsold CD by value since 1987. That increase is largely due to the format’s increasing prices - £30 is now common for an LP. 

But vinyl unit sales in 2022 increased by just 2.9% year-on-year to 5.5 million, compared to growth of 10.6% (around 500,000 units) in 2021. Nevertheless, vinyl is now at its highest level in units since 1990.

Of course, a large part of the problem is to do with supply rather than demand, with stores only able to sell LPs in the quantities made available by labels and distributors due to production capacity issues. 

“The outlook for vinyl remains extremely positive,” said ERA’s Kim Bayley. “It’s worth remembering that the much talked about problems of vinyl have been a result of demand exceeding supply – there are worse problems to have. There are issues around price – arguably vinyl has gone from being underpriced to in some cases being too ambitious – but I expect these to be resolved as supply more closely aligns with demand.”

The outlook for vinyl remains extremely positive

Kim Bayley

Almost half of those extra 200,000 sales in 2022 were down to Taylor Swift’s Midnights (EMI), which moved 89,163 copies on vinyl last year. 

Eight of the Top 10 vinyl sellers last year were from albums first released in 2022. It follows a period when catalogue was driving the growth of the format, alongside increasing streaming consumption. In 2017, just three of the year’s 10 biggest vinyl LPs were released in that year with the top sellers dominated by catalogue titles by artists including The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

“The rise in sales of catalogue albums on vinyl is a clear example of the symbiotic relationship between streaming and physical retail,” said Bayley. “People are finding and listening to classic albums on streaming services and in many cases buying - or re-buying - those albums on vinyl. 

“That said, the more striking development in 2022 was the strong performance of new releases from the likes of Taylor Swift and Harry Styles on vinyl – vinyl is far from some kind of heritage format.”

Harry Styles had the overall No.1 album of 2022 with Harry’s House (Columbia), which was the No.2 vinyl release of the year (77,955 copies). 

During Q4, vinyl sales were up 7.4% year-on-year with more than two million units sold in the quarter.

“The market is going to continue to be strong across 2023,” said Charles Wood, VP of market planning and sales at Sony Music UK. “We had good vinyl sales on new [Q4] releases from Bruce Springsteen and First Aid Kit plus continuing strong sales on Harry Styles. 

“The backlog at some manufacturers inherited from Covid, has begun to ease, so we are much better equipped going into 2023 than we were at the turn of the last two years. We still have some strong catalogue titles yet to be re-issued or released on vinyl, for example Whitney Houston following on from the recent success of Jamiroquai.”

Sony Music also had a Q4 success with the reissue of George Michael’s Older, which moved 16,429 copies on vinyl. Whitney Houston’s self-titled 1985 debut is being reissued as part of a vinyl campaign for the artist, whose catalogue has been boosted by the box office success of biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Warner Music had three of the Top 10 vinyl releases of the year, including Liam Gallagher’s C’Mon You Know, Fleetwood Mac’s perennial Rumours and Muse’s Will Of The People.

Linda Walker, SVP, commercial, UK & Europe at Warner Music UK, is confident about the continuing vinyl revival while being mindful of inflationary pressures on the format.

“There is still great demand for vinyl, but we do have to be conscious of the financial climate right now and the impact that may have,” she told Music Week.

Click here for HMV MD Phil Halliday’s verdict on vinyl’s performance.

Subscribers can click here to read our 2022 market report.


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