Physical records have made a 2021 comeback, with over five million LP vinyls purchased over the past 12 months – a jump of eight per cent or higher on 2020 and a 14th consecutive year of growth since the format’s low point in 2007.
New figures to be released by record labels’ association the BPI show how vinyls have accounted for nearly a quarter of 2021 album purchases (predicted 23 per cent), estimated to be at its highest level since 1990.
More than 100 album titles sold over 5,000 copies on vinyl LP in 2021 (a great many selling over 2,000 copies in week of release), while more than 900 titles sold over 1,000 copies on LP.
The title with the biggest first-week sales was ABBA’s Voyage (29,891) – the fastest seller on vinyl this century according to Official Charts.
Among the albums expected to be announced as the year’s best sellers are classic LPs by iconic artists such as Back To Black by Amy Winehouse (reissued to coincide with National Album Day to mark its 15th anniversary) and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac as well as major 2021 releases including ABBA’s Voyage, Adele’s 30, Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under, Ed Sheeran’s = and Wolf Alice’s Blue Weekend.
Vinyl sales powered through 2021 via a hybrid of high street and online sales, as independent stores and specialist chains such as HMV again stepped up its offer in a challenging retail environment, supported by events such as National Album Day, Record Store Day, The Record Club and Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties.
The drop-off in CD sales has reduced from 27 per cent annually between 2018 – 2020 to just a predicted 12 per cents in 2021, with sales boosted by CD-friendly releases from superstar artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran and ABBA. This suggests that reducing demand for the format, which is nearing its 40th anniversary, may be bottoming out thanks to a core group of baby-boomer and newer fans that remain committed to the audio format.
Additionally, though still just a fraction of overall UK recorded music consumption, and often released in limited edition format, cassettes now come as standard on many album releases. Final figures for 2021 are likely to show that around 190,000 tapes were purchased in the past 12 months – up by around a fifth on the year and the highest amount since 2003, when 243,000 tapes were sold and Now 54 was the year’s biggest seller on the format.
This marks a ninth year of consecutive growth for the format, which is finding a new market among music enthusiasts of all ages who value its retro, collectable appeal.
Among the most popular titles released on cassette in 2021 were Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together and Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres.
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize, said: “It’s a great time to be a music fan, with wider choice on offer than ever before supported by great value. 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 BPI will report its final music consumption figures, including 2021 streaming data, on January 4.