Another year marks another positive note hit by vinyl album sales.
Vinyl sales in the United States fell from 21.5 million units in 2020 to 41.7 million units last year, according to a 2021 report by MRC Data-Billboard, a media consumption company. formerly known as Nielsen-SoundScan.
Last year, vinyl albums – once considered a niche format sidelined by streaming services and digital downloads – accounted for more than half of all physical music sales in the United States for the first times since MRC-SoundScan began tracking the data in 1991. According to the report, vinyl moved enough units last year to top 2020 sales totals by the end of September, weeks before Adele was released. her album topped the “30” charts and that holiday shopping didn’t take center stage.
To sum up the year-over-year increase in one week: at the end of December 2021, vinyl hit a weekly high in the MRC-SoundScan era, with the organization reporting 2.11 million units sold. This week eclipses a seven-day total that previously peaked in late December 2020 at 1.842 million.
Yet, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the boom in vinyl album sales is nothing new. About a decade ago, vinyl records began to skyrocket, largely due to the popularity of retailers and independent artists. Now, amid a tsunami of popularity that has created growing difficulties for the format, music fans can find major labels and chain retailers selling 12-inch records at a pace not seen in this century.
Unlike previous years, when suppressed albums by the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and other legacy artists largely dominated year-end vinyl sales, MRC reports that modern artists led in 2021’s “30 years.” by Adele, “Sour” by Olivia Rodrigo and “Sour” by Taylor Swift Red (Taylor’s Version)” topped vinyl sales for the year, according to MRC.
But, as we approach 2022, the aforementioned growing pains persist.
Booming demand mixed with supply chain issues and increased competition for shelf space can create a juggling game for labels that think vinyl is an essential commodity with every release. Production delays can stretch from months to a year, forcing gatekeepers to weigh which new music gets priority over vinyl and which could debut digitally.
How much pressure can there be to spin wax records on turntables? In November 2021, pressing plants around the world could produce around 180 million albums a year, according to Making Vinyl, an annual conference on record manufacturing; however, demand reached around 360 million albums, doubling production capacity.
Learn more about the barriers facing vinyl music in this late 2021 Tennessean report.