Vinyl and cassette sales surge as streamers collect the music they love in lockdown

Amy Winehouse sings Back to Black, one of the best-selling vinyls and (above) Fleetwood Mac, who are at the top of the ‘streaming’ charts with Rumours.

Nothing sells like nostalgia. New figures released by record labels’ association, the BPI, using Official Charts Company data will show that alongside continued growth in streaming, which now accounts for around 80 per cent of UK music consumption, sales of vinyl LPs and audio cassettes surged ahead in 2020.

Fans turned to their favourite music in ever greater numbers to escape the lockdown blues, the figures will show.

There has never been so much choice in terms of how to discover, access and enjoy music. Most fans turn to the immediacy of streaming for much of their daily listening, but increasingly they complement this by collecting much-loved albums on vinyl, CD, download and even on cassette.

Record labels work with their artists to provide this choice by releasing music across digital and physical formats and by licensing their artists’ work to hundreds of different music services.

Vinyl gets the high five

Nearly five million (4.8m) LPs were purchased in the UK over the past 12 months – a leap of nearly a tenth on sales in 2019 and a 13th consecutive year of growth since 2007. Vinyl LPs now account for nearly one in five of all albums purchased (18 per cent) and are at their highest level since the early nineties. Vinyl generates almost twice as much in industry revenues as music video streaming platforms, such as YouTube, despite the tens of billions of videos watched every year.

Among the titles expected to be announced as the year’s best sellers by the Official Charts are classic LPs by iconic artists such as Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, who in 2020 celebrated their 50th anniversary, Oasis’s (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and Nirvana’s Nevermind. New studio albums have also done very well, including Harry Styles’ Fine Line, Kylie Minogue’s Disco, AC/DC’s Power Up, and Ultra Mono by IDLES – the follow-up to the 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize-shortlisted album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance.

Vinyl LP sales initially dipped during the first lockdown but by September they began showing positive year-to-date growth for the first time. Campaigns such as LoveRecordStores, Tim’s Twitter Online Listening Parties (both in March), Record Store Day (postponed to June but with extra events), The Record Club and National Album Day (in October) helped to rally fans in support of indie record shops,
specialist chains and the artist community.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive, BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “In a year when all our lives have changed, music’s power to inspire has never been more evident. The immediacy and convenience of streaming make it the go-to audio format for most of our listening, but more and more fans choose to get closer to their favourite artists and albums on vinyl.

“It’s remarkable that LP and audio tape sales should have risen at all given the challenges we’ve all faced.

“The surge in sales despite retail closures demonstrates the timeless appeal of collectable physical formats alongside the seamless connectivity of streaming.”

The BPI will report its final music consumption figures on January 4th 2021.

Predicted best-selling vinyl albums for 2020 (based on YTD Official Charts data)

1. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
2. Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
3. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
4. Nirvana – Nevermind
5. Harry Styles – Fine Line
6. Kylie Minogue – Disco
7. AC/DC – Power Up
8. Queen – Greatest Hits
9. IDLES – Ultra Mono
10. Arctic Monkeys – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Cassettes reel in the fans

Though still only a fraction of overall recorded music, cassettes, typically released in limited edition format, now come as standard on many album releases.

Final figures based on Official Charts data for 2020 will be confirmed on 4th January, but it is projected that around 157,000 tapes will have been purchased in the past 12 months – double the total of the year before 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 would mark an eighth 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 2020 were Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, 5 Seconds Of Summer’s Calm, which to date is the year’s fastest-seller, Yungblud’s Weird, and The 1975’s Notes On A Conditional Form.

Other artists to have reeled in the fans on the format include South Korean all-girl pop band Blackpink,
Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, Haim and not forgetting Kylie, whose 80s inspired Disco was a particular highlight of the year across all three main physical formats.

Predicted best-selling cassette albums for 2020 (based on Official Charts data)

1. Lady Gaga – Chromatica
2. 5 Seconds Of Summer – Calm
3. Yungblud – Weird
4. The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form
5. Blackpink – The Album
6. Selena Gomez – Rare
7. Kylie Minogue – Disco
8. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
9. Haim – Women In Music Pt III
10. The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive

  • Please note that the figures reported are not yet final and will be confirmed on 4th January 2021, when the BPI publishes its music consumption report for 2020.

Meanwhile, a new analysis from record labels association the BPI reveals that one in every ten songs (10.1 per cent) streamed around the world is by a British artist.

The UK’s share of global streaming is four times greater than its share of global GDP (2.2 per cent) (1), underlining the UK’s exceptional performance in music.

The BPI, which represents over 450 UK-based record labels, carried out the analysis based on the music charts of 14 major music markets (2), which together account for around three-quarters of global recorded music consumption.

The one in ten result highlights the extraordinary global influence of British music. The ease of
accessing UK music via streaming services and worldwide promotion by labels means that more British artists are now connecting with more fans to build international careers.

The Beatles on tour – George, John, Paul and Ringo with footballers Hugh Robertson and George Ryden, who was one of three professional players from Renton.

Music markets previously out of reach, notably in Asia, South America and Africa, are much more accessible thanks to streaming’s global reach and record labels’ digital marketing. Newly-signed artists can now also expect to have a more immediate international impact than previous generations.

A new wave of British talent is harnessing streaming to reach hundreds of millions of fans.

In addition to established British superstars – such as Ed Sheeran, Adele, Sam Smith, Calvin Harris, Harry Styles, Coldplay – and iconic artists such as Queen and The Beatles, whose songs are being streamed billions of times a year, a rising new global wave of British talent – including Dua Lipa, Lewis Capaldi, Stormzy, Anne Marie, George Ezra, Ellie Goulding, Rag’n’Bone Man and The 1975 – has grown up with streaming and is achieving enormous success with it.

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