By Pearse McGrath
Photo via Pixabay.
The sale of vinyl records has continued to rise worldwide throughout Covid-19, despite complications caused by the pandemic.
According to the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) 309,000 vinyl records were purchased in 2020, compared to 218,000 bought in 2019, which represents a 42% year-on-year increase.
These sales accounted for 8.1% of the total Irish albums market, and continued the trend of vinyl records growing in popularity. While official data has not yet been released for 2021 there is no indication that this growth will not continue.
In general, 2020 was a good year for music revenue worldwide despite global lockdowns, with a growth in music revenue of 7.4%. It was the industry’s sixth consecutive year of growth, being led by surges in subscription streaming and sales of vinyl records.
Although this seems to be good news for all vinyl record stores, it was not a period without a great deal of stress for shop owners.
A spokesperson for gift and vinyl record store OMG @ Zhivago in Galway, said, “The pandemic had a huge effect on record sales. We had a website selling vinyl online back in 2013 but it was too early so we shut it down after a few years. When the first lockdown was announced we had to scramble to get our whole catalogue up on the way first and then onto our own store.”
They also said: “The third lockdown after Christmas came at the worst time because we were sold out of 80% of our vinyl from Christmas and then we can’t really restock until we know the store will be allowed to reopen and there will be money coming in through the door.”
However, Murphy confirmed that interest in vinyl records was indeed at an considerably increased level in the last two years.
“Online sales were good and even with being closed in Galway for a few months we sold more vinyl in 2020 in total than we did in 2019,” he said.
It has long been suggested that Covid restrictions have had a far greater impact on smaller businesses as opposed to larger chains. This seems to be no different in the world of vinyl records.
OMG @ Zhivago, which is located on Galway Main Street for 30 years and at one time had 8 music retail stores across Ireland, are by no means a small business but don’t have anywhere near the financial power of chains such as Golden Discs
“Chains such as Golden Discs have a bit more leeway with the record companies as they would be carrying a lot more stock,” said the spokesperson.
Even prior to the pandemic Golden Discs had reported increased year-on-year revenues of 9% in 2019, which was largely attributed to the sale of vinyl records, and announced plans to open two new stores.
“The vinyl renaissance and renewed interest in physical product shows no signs of abating,” said Golden Discs chief executive Stephen Fitzgerald at the time, which seems to still ring true, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
OMG remains similarly optimistic, “vinyl sales are great and still growing…we’ve been a record store for over 40 years in one form or another and the staff all have over 15 years experience so we’re well placed to function effectively.”
There was a similar trend in the UK and the US, with sales of vinyl records growing in both countries.
“We have seen 250% growth from the bottom of lockdown to where we are now,” said Drew Hill, managing director of Proper Music, the UK’s biggest independent distributor of vinyl and CDs, in an interview with The Guardian.
Hill attributed this to fans “spending the money they used to on going to gigs each month on records.”
Meanwhile across the pond, in the first half of 2021, revenues from vinyl albums grew 94 per cent to $467 million in the US, a report by The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) found. Another report by MRC Data said that a grand total of 19.2 million vinyl albums were sold in the US in the first six months of 2021.
The following graph illustrates the year-on-year rise in the sale of vinyl records in the US over the past decade, a trend which is all but certain to continue this year.
Like most businesses worldwide, the vinyl record industry has faced significant challenges during the pandemic, but continues to show large growth in the face of serious adversity, and stores which are selling records will be banking on this growth continuing into the future.