Adele may be immune to many of the mortal concerns that trouble musical non-deities, but there’s one thing she has in common with the most modest indie rocker: She had to finish her forthcoming album, “30,” early if she wanted vinyl available on the same day the release hit streaming services. And these days, almost everybody does.
While the company declined official comment, Sony Music sources tell Variety that more than 500,000 vinyl copies of “30” have been manufactured in the months leading up to the album’s Nov. 19 release, with the company pushing catalog titles off its overseas pressing plants to ensure there won’t be any shortage of Adele LPs going into the holidays. To do that — for an album that will probably immediately break initial vinyl sales records — the artist had to turn in ”30” more than six months ago. Any later and Adele would have been subject to the manufacturing shortages and overbooked pressing plants that have essentially turned almost every new LP release into a limited edition.
Vinyl sales have been on the rise since 2006 and last year overtook CD sales for the first time since 1986 — but what’s happened in recent months is a boom on top of a boom. Chains like Walmart and Target, which have all but quit the CD business, now order their own exclusive color-variant pressings on top of the exclusives that indie stores or artist websites tout. That demand has formed a perfect storm with the same pandemic conditions that have left many industries’ raw materials marooned on ships.
“A lot of people were looking for ways to keep themselves entertained at home during the pandemic” and bought turntables, as well as the product to put on them, says David Macias, head of the indie Thirty Tigers label. “As a configuration, it’s gone from the cool factor to a huge chunk of the business” — especially for a midsize label like his. “In 2019, Thirty Tigers did about 295,000 units of vinyl, and this year we’re on pace to do 800,000. It’s crazy how much it’s blown up in two years.” Indeed, while physical product accounted for just 10% of recorded-music revenue in the first half of 2021, according to the RIAA, vinyl was more than two-thirds of that total, bringing in $467 million — with year-to-year growth of 85.7% that can only partly be attributed to pandemic aberrations.