Vinyl sales may have hit their highest level in the UK since 1991 but this is hardly a sign of what is to come. Indeed, a quick look through the top 10 vinyl albums of 2016 reveals that all but one of the artists were releasing music back in 1991! The exception is Amy Winehouse and she’s dead. The majority of the volume of vinyl sales is driven by nostalgic older music fans.
Not only is vinyl not the future (it was just 2.6% of sales in 2016), the big differences between the most popular vinyl, streaming, singles and album artists reveal just how fragmented the music business has become. Each of the top 10 charts (album sales, singles, top streaming artists, vinyl sales) almost reads as a standalone group of artists with remarkably little cross over. In fact, only 2 artists appear across streaming, singles and albums. None appear across all four charts.
As large volumes of older consumers switch to streaming (and Amazon should play a key role here) there will be more opportunity to join the dots. But do not mistake this simply as an opportunity to try to revive yesterday’s formats in today’s platforms. The album is clearly fading. According to MIDiA Research survey data, 68% of subscribers state that playlists are replacing albums for them. It is time to start investing though and effort in rethinking what album experiences should be in the digital era. And that conversation should have no bounds, everything should be on the table (number of tracks, street date vs continual updates, interactivity, changing content etc.).