The record industry is celebrating a surprise revival in physical music with fans sending vinyl and cassette sales to new heights in a fightback against the dominance of digital streaming.
Music lovers are once again enjoying the pleasure of an album you can hold in your hands, thanks to the success of breakthrough artists such as Sam Fender and Olivia Rodrigo alongside blockbuster releases by Adele and Abba.
Although streaming via Spotify and Apple Music dominates the singles charts, fans still want albums as a physical artefact.
Vinyl LP sales are set to top 5m for 2021, up 10 per cent, their highest figure in over three decades, trade body BPI said.
Abba’s comeback album Voyage is the fastest-selling vinyl release of the century, shifting 30,000 copies in its opening week.
Adele beat a vinyl production shortage by commandeering the available printing presses to produce copies of her 30 album, the year’s second-biggest seller.
Vinyl will have accounted for nearly a quarter of 2021 album purchases, its highest level since 1990, when Phil Collins’ But Seriously was the biggest selling title.
The cassette revival shows no sign of slowing either. Almost 200,000 tapes were sold, led by new US star Olivia Rodrigo, rapper Dave & Lana Del Rey, a 20 per cent rise on 2020. It is the ninth consecutive year of cassette sale rises with artists cashing in on their “retro” appeal.
Predicted best-selling cassette albums for 2021 (Based on YTD Official Charts data)
- Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
- Dave – We’re All Alone In This Together
- Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club
- Queen – Greatest Hits
- Coldplay – Music of the Spheres
Even the Compact Disc, believed to be heading for obsolescence with a huge collapse in sales over 15 years, demonstrated its staying power.
Over 14 million CDs were purchased, boosted by Abba, Adele & Ed Sheeran album releases in the run-up to Christmas. The BPI predicts a 12 per cent drop in the format, the lowest in three years.
Both “heritage” and contemporary artists recorded significant LP & tape sales with Amy Winehouse, Fleetwood Mac, Wolf Alice and Fender among the most popular.
Releasing an album on LP, tape and CD as well as streaming plays a pivotal role in artists being able to maximise opening week sales and enter the Official Albums Chart at number one, the BPI said.
Musicians generally receive higher royalties payments from the purchase of a full-price album than when their songs are played on streaming platforms.
Drew Hill, MD Proper Music Distribution, said: “This year, nearly 90 per cent of number one albums hit the top spot off the back of a physical sales majority. It’s further proof that in this golden era of choice, music fans really cherish an album they can hold.”
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “Thanks to record label investment into new music and talent, fans can purchase and collect the music they most love on vinyl, CD and even cassette, whilst also enjoying access to over 70 million songs to stream instantly whenever and how often they want, in turn enabling a new generation of artists to create music and sustain successful careers in a global market.”
The Twitter listening parties of complete albums, hosted by Charlatans singer Tim Burgess during the pandemic, is credited with boosting interest and sales in new and classic long players.
Predicted best-selling vinyl albums for 2021 (Based on YTD Official Charts data)
- ABBA – Voyage
- Adele – 30
- Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
- Ed Sheeran – =
- Amy Winehouse – Back To Black