UK vinyl sales have grown for the 13th year in a row

Vinyl and cassette tapes are making a slow but steady comeback in the UK.

Vinyl’s resurgence wasn’t a fad. Today, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has announced that 4.8 million LP albums were sold this year in the UK. That’s almost 10 percent higher than 2019 and consistent year-over-year growth since 2007. For comparison, a little more than 3 million LPs were sold in 2016. According to the BPI, vinyl sales haven’t been this strong since “the early nineties.” The format now represents 18 percent of album sales in the UK and, notably, creates “twice as much in industry revenues as music video streaming platforms, such as YouTube,” the BPI said in a press release. You can only make so much from AdSense, I suppose.

The format is enjoying a similar revival in the US at the moment. Back in September, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that vinyl had outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s.

Unsurprisingly, most of the UK’s best-selling albums are long-time favourites. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (1977) is expected to take the top spot this year, following by Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995) and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black (2006). Some new releases are expected to crack the top 10, though. Harry Styles should make number five with his sophomore effort Fine Line (2019), followed by Kylie Minogue’s Disco (2020) and AC/DC’s Power Up (2020). Idles’s Ultra Mono (2020) should slide in at number nine, followed by Arctic Monkeys’ charity album Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2020). It's a promising sign for any artist that's unable to make money from live performances at the moment.

Vinyl isn’t the only retro format making a comeback. The humble cassette is expected to hit 157,000 sales in the UK this year. A tiny figure compared to vinyl, but double what the format achieved in 2019. According to the BPI, it’s the highest total since 2003 — the year that 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ came out — when 243,000 tapes were sold in the UK. Surprisingly, the best-selling cassette list shares little with its vinyl-based counterpart. Lady Gaga’s Chromatica is predicted to be number one in the UK, followed by 5 Second of Summer’s Calm and Yungblud’s Weird.

Unsurprisingly, streaming is the way that most people listen to music in the UK. The BPI says it now accounts “for around 80 percent” of listening in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the trade association, which represents the UK’s recorded music industry, firms believes that vinyl and cassettes are complimentary formats. People use services such as Spotify and Apple Music for their daily listening, it argues, but collect much-loved records on vinyl, cassette and CD. Others back their favorite artists by purchasing music digitally through platforms such as Bandcamp and iTunes. Streaming services and YouTube have also become powerful discovery tools that help people find their next physical acquisition.

“The immediacy and convenience of streaming make it the go-to audio format for most of our listening, but more and more fans choose to get closer to their favourite artists and albums on vinyl,” Geoff Taylor, the CEO of BPI, the BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize said in a a press release.