The vinyl revival of the last few years is still going strong, but the crazy pace is finally showing signs of slowing down. Vinyl album sales were up around 12 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to year-end figures from data company BuzzAngle, which tracks U.S. music consumption, representing a more modest growth than its 20 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.
Sales of vinyl albums accounted for 13.7 percent of all physical album sales last year, according to the new report, while they accounted for 10 percent of that category in 2017 and eight percent of it in 2016. The resurgence continues to be directly at odds with the shrinking popularity of physical formats overall — all told, digital and physical album sales fell 18 percent in the last year — and points to, as many music fans have argued in the past, vinyl’s increasing endurance and sentimental value in the streaming age. (Cassette tapes, a fellow nostalgia-market leader, are also flying off the shelves at a growth rate of 18.9 percent from 2017 to 2018.)
Peering more closely at the vinyl growth reveals a second intriguing trend: A greater diversity of music is being purchased on the format. While 65 percent of vinyl album sales fell into the rock genre three years ago, that figure was 54 percent in 2017 and 42 percent in 2018 — meaning the bulk of vinyl albums last year were actually in categories like pop (26 percent) and urban/hip-hop (14.4 percent). Such a trend bucks the popular impression that vinyl is predominantly a format preferred by fans of guitar-based music or classic rock. In fact, it’s proving a collector’s item that defies genre.
But that new diversification doesn’t mean vinyl’s deep cultural association with older music is eroding soon. BuzzAngle’s report found that only 8 percent of vinyl album purchases made in 2018 were for new albums, while 66 percent of purchases were for “deep catalog” music — i.e. albums released decades ago that have aged into year-specific radio stations, your parents’ storage collection and possibly an Urban Outfitters T-shirt or two. The Beatles’ Abbey Road, for instance, sold 43,606 copies in 2018 and Sgt. Pepper managed 24,887. The odd mixture of the very new and the very old is apparent from just a glance at the 20 top-selling vinyl albums of 2018, listed below.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (Various Artists)
- Thriller (Michael Jackson)
- Abbey Road (The Beatles)
- Rumours (Fleetwood Mac)
- Purple Rain (Prince & The Revolution)
- Back to Black (Amy Winehouse)
- Love Is Here to Stay (Tony Bennett & Diana Krall)
- Greatest Hits I (Queen)
- The Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
- Legend (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
- American Teen (Khalid)
- The Greatest Showman: Original Soundtrack (Various Artists)
- Chronicle – 20 Greatest Hits (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
- Divide (Ed Sheeran)
- Nevermind (Nirvana)
- Man of the Woods (Justin Timberlake)
- DAMN. (Kendrick Lamar)
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band (The Beatles)
- Ultimate Sinatra (Frank Sinatra)
- good kid, m.A.A.d city (Kendrick Lamar)
Note: Penske Media has a controlling share in BuzzAngle.