Last year UK sales of vinyl increased by nearly a third (30.5%) to £86.5 million – the highest total since 1989 – with the number of vinyl records sold hitting a three-decade high of 4.8 million last year. This marks the 13th consecutive year of growth, despite physical shops closing across the country.
However 2021 is proving to be the year of the shortage. We have all experienced, in some form, the supply chain issues across all industries, whether it be micro chips, fuel, wood, glue, glass and more. Raw materials are taking a huge dip for two reasons. Firstly, when the pandemic struck it caused factories to shut down overnight. Secondly, when the factories shut, the world moved to online shopping as we were locked at home.
It’s not just the lack of raw PVC that is threatening to de-rail the revival of vinyl. The cardboard used to make the sleeves are in short supply, with the ‘Amazon effect’ being blamed for the 1000% increase in cardboard prices. In 2019, Amazon reportedly dispatched over 3.5 billion packages and online shopping shows no signs of slowing down. This does not include the increase in shipping costs, huge wait times for presses to be made, and pressing plants already at breaking point capacities.
So what happens to vinyl now?
We have seen many labels make exclusive runs of vinyl, vinyl only albums, and really try to revive the media format in general. This has been well received by the masses not only across dance music but the entire musical spectrum. While Kylie Minogue’s DISCO was the best-selling vinyl album released in 2020, with 16,700 vinyl copies sold in it’s first week, this was only 7-8% of all sales for the album. Can it still be worth it for labels?
With strict release schedules, can labels count on the mere 100 pressing plants across the globe to keep up with the demand, stick to production dates and create the product the artist deserves? With a lead time of 20-30 weeks in some cases, without incorporating shipping delays, it’s difficult to see labels having vinyl ready in time, taking away some of the ‘first play magic’ a vinyl record gives.
We want to continue placing the needle on a new record and sitting back to enjoy it, which is something you simply cannot get from online streaming. Nor is watching your favourite artist dig out their records live on stage for a vinyl only set and wondering how they could possibly be that skilled. With Belfast duo Bicep smashing over 18,000 vinyl sales in 2021, we hope to see that trend continue and show that the demand is still worth fighting for.