Uptick in Vinyl Sales Proves Value of Recorded Music Headed to Zero

Vinyl Heaven

“Vinyl Heaven,” © 2009 Matthias Rhomberg, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

In another universe, I’m one of the people cheering and holding a pennant that sales “Vinyl!” on it.

But in this one, I’m just not that gullible. When we talked about music sales recently, I knew that people would take the bait on the deceptive infographic showing the “explosion” of sales of recordings on vinyl. Up 33%, while digital is down 8%! Of course, you don’t need a degree in statistics to look just slightly deeper at those numbers and realize that vinyl sales are still just 2% of a shrinking recorded music pie, and the implication of the statistic is that vinyl was already around 1.5% of sales in the previous year.

I get it, by the way. Vinyl sounds great, and, just like the author of this piece from The Globe and Mail says, there are a whole system of elaborate justifications for buying an album over digital. MP3s do, really and truly, sound like garbage. It’s a scientific fact, at least compared to CDs and vinyl.

In fact, if it’s true that people are buying albums for such reasons as sound quality, the souvenir value of the packaging, the liner notes in larger print, or to help support the artist, you can in fact be sure that the market share of vinyl will stay in the low to mid-single digits. In the mass market, those reasons just won’t trump convenience and price.

That doesn’t mean that this can’t be a very meaningful niche market. I think it probably can. But the simple fact that so many different cultural and economic factors have to come together to get a very small portion of the music-consuming public to buy these albums reinforces the reality that, at its core, recorded music, unlike live music, has dropped in value to the point where it’s a struggle to sell it at all.

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