April 22 is Record Store Day. Conceived in 2007, the annual event is held to celebrate independently owned record stores and their contribution to music culture in the U.S. and internationally. In the age of digital music, small record stores may seem like an anachronism, but there are still plenty of music fans who love digging through the crates in search of rare LP. Speaking of LPs: Are they really back?
Vinyl album sales in the United States increased by 1,200 percent over the past ten years. That’s a fact. It is also the basis for many reports celebrating the comeback of the LP as a counterpart to the soulless bits and bytes music is often reduced to these days. But how big is the comeback of the big black disc really? Should we all dust off our old record players to prepare for the future of music?
Not really. According to Nielsen’s 2016 year-end music report, LPs accounted for no more (but also no less) than 6.5 percent of album sales in the United States. When accounting for streaming and downloads of single tracks, that number drops to 2.3 percent of total music consumption – not exactly the lion’s share.
However small the impact of rising LP sales on the music industry’s bottom line may be, it’s still interesting to witness a hundred year-old technology come back from near extinction. Let’s hope the video cassette stays buried in the back rooms of (probably out of business) video rental stores.