Physical education: Why there's still life in the old format

Physical education: Why there's still life in the old format

What the hell is going on? You could be forgiven for asking precisely that after looking at the charts lately. The Vamps recently scored a No. 1 album, the surprise being that it was on the back of a high proportion of physical sales. Following that, and while Lana Del Rey did hit the top spot, she was given a very close run for her money from Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott’s Crooked Calypso which racked up paid-for sales of 23,309 copies, while picking up just 239 sales-equivalent streams.

Likewise, while Sony Corp’s recently-unveiled global financial results revealed streaming revenue growing 25.4%, this was complemented by Q1 physical sales increasing by 16.3%. So, are we encountering the rebirth of the physical product!? Er, no. Clearly, streaming – as you have read roughly a billion times by now – is as important as everyone says it is. But what these victories highlight is that music fans still want physical products.

It is not just technophonic Luddites that are still buying CDs, nor is it just older people – The Vamps was proof of that. What they, in particular, did well was create a product that enticed their core audience – releasing a standard CD format with a free live DVD and a poster.

They’re not alone. Earlier this year, physical copies of Nine Inch Nails’ new EP Not The Actual Events came shipped with a mystery ‘physical component’ and Natalie Merchant’s career retrospective boxset contained a 100-page photobooklet. I’m personally more convinced than ever that so long as artists can think of inventive ways to package or complement their art by creating things worth owning – note: a CD case with wafer-thin inlay doesn’t count  – physical will keep on doing the business.

George Garner, Deputy Editor

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