Vinyl indignity: record sales are up, but small labels don't see the benefit
Despite statistics suggesting that vinyl sales may be on the rise, independent record labels are finding it harder than ever to sell wax.This article originally appeared on The Guardian
Earlier this week, it was widely reported that vinyl is outselling digital downloads in the UK for the first time since the iTunes store was launched here in 2004.
Finally, some good news! After all the tragic losses from the world of music in 2016, here was some seasonal good cheer: the warm and wonderful crackle of vinyl was finally fighting back against cold, compressed MP3s. But, despite the discussions it generated on Newsnight and in these very pages, no one thought to point out that the premise of vinyl surging ahead of downloads is utter nonsense.
The real story is that sales of downloads are dropping not because vinyl is wooing back digital listeners but because streaming is becoming the default way of consuming digital music. Furthermore, the headlines were misleading because vinyl hadn’t outsold digital downloads at all, but rather had made more money for the music industry over the previous week – and no doubt a good proportion of that was thanks to Kate Bush’s new live album Before the Dawn, which sets you back well over £50 on vinyl, more than four times as much as the download.
The relentless spin on the so-called “vinyl revival” is getting ridiculous – as the Daily Mash pointed out in a piece about how vinyl has become more popular than food. The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) has been spinning this line for the last couple years, since taking over the reins of Record Store Day. But feelgood stories such as this week’s are like those backmasked records that may or may not have contained satanic messages: gibberish. The truth, for many labels and shops, seems to be the complete opposite.