Taylor Swift’s legions of fans have helped propel the amount spent on vinyl records above CDs for the first time since the 1980s when stars including Rick Astley, T’Pau and Pet Shop Boys topped the charts.
The singer’s loyal fanbase of “Swifties”, who have made the 33-year-old’s latest album Midnights the biggest-selling vinyl record of the century in the UK, helped push annual revenues made by the sale of vinyl album sales above the once-mighty CD for the first time since 1987.
While CD sales have endured years of precipitous declines – having peaked at 2.45bn globally in 2000 just as digital music emerged to presage the streaming revolution that has transformed music listening – the classic LP has somewhat counterintuitively experienced a striking revival in popularity.
This year vinyl album sales are expected to grow for the 15th consecutive year to about 5.5m, the most since 1990, with the 80,000 copies of Swift’s Midnights the most of any album in a calendar year this century.
What started as a vinyl renaissance built largely by older music fans seeking collectible editions of treasured albums – mostly classic artists such as the Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd – has since spread to younger generations of fans in love with retro music formats including cassettes.
Unusually, eight of this year’s Top 10 sellers, which will officially be revealed in the new year after final sales are tallied, are new albums released in 2022.
“It’s a watershed moment for the entire music industry,” says Kim Bayley, the chief executive of the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA). “After the CD came along and pretty much wiped out the vinyl business, few of us would have believed a renaissance like this was possible.”
The pandemic accelerated music-buying habits as fans unable to go to gigs and events channelled their spare cash into building up their record collections at home.
In 2021, revenues from vinyl album sales rose 23% to £135.6m, while CD sales continued to fall by 3.9% to £150m, according to the ERA.
This year revenue from CD sales, which overtook vinyl in 1988 and cassettes in 1991, will fall below that of vinyl LPs by as much as £20m, according to sales figures.
More than 14m CDs were sold last year, with a significant double-digit percentage annual fall expected when official figures for 2022 come in next week.
“Will the CD disappear? Of course its prospects don’t look good right now, but it offers a permanence and robustness and quality which is unique,” says Bayley. “Given how wrong we were about vinyl, it would be foolish to write off the CD for ever.”
While LP sales will continue to rise to a more than four-decade high in 2022, music fans appear to finally be reaching “peak vinyl” with figures expected to show growth in unit sales slowing to just a few percentage points year on year.
“As the LP marks its 75th anniversary in 2023, it’s as relevant as ever,” says Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of music industry trade body the BPI. “In an age of streaming, physical music purchases remain an essential and healthy part of the music market.”
Cassette sales, which hit 185,000 last year, are expected to be up year on year as the format continues to experience its own mini revival.
Top 10 bestselling vinyl albums of 2022
1. Midnights – Taylor Swift
2. Harry’s House – Harry Styles
3. The Car – Arctic Monkeys
4. C’mon You Know – Liam Gallagher
5. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
6. Will of the People – Muse
7. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
8. Skinny Fia – Fontaines DC
9. Being Funny in A Foreign Language – 1975
10. AM – Arctic Monkeys
Source: Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA)