Vinyl Is Not Dead – The Real ‘Black Friday’ Music Boom

Written by on November 24, 2017

This Black Friday, the music industry will be watching sales closely, with most attention being focused on Taylor Swift. Still, analysts are saying that the business may be looking in the wrong place to see true profit. Reissues and vinyl are holding their own in terms of profitability.
Vinyl Store

Shops are ready for this year’s Record Store Day Black Friday event, with vinyl, reissues and box sets among hot items (ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images)

Shops are gearing up for Record Store Day’s annual Black Friday event, with releases by Paul McCartney and U2 among the highlights. The former Beatle has two singles including a new version of “Wonderful Christmastime” while the Irish quartet has a vinyl version of its “Blackout” single.

Obviously, they have a long way to go to beat Swift’s new album Reputation, which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling more copies in days than any other title this year. This album, like Adele’s 25, also started without major digital access. Swift has only a few songs from it on iTunes and Amazon, also streaming off Spotify or Apple Music, so effectively relying on physical sales.

 There are many more reasons why physical music is holding on:


Record Store Day events always see physical items surge. Some of the 800 stores in the U.S. participating last year said their figures were up by 80 percent or more over a normal November week.

EBay EBAY -0.03% says that demand from Internet buyers who snap up physical products peaks at the start of the holiday period and the first weekend of December. A physical disc can be wrapped up or put in the Christmas stocking. This beats giving someone a streaming voucher or a memory stick.

 A U.K. survey – but with results mirrored elsewhere – for eBay found that 52% of consumers prefer physical formats and 18 to 24 year olds are actually powering the resurgence. That is contrary to the widespread belief that they would only want digital, streaming and Spotify.

Who benefits? Apart from McCartney and U2, mentioned above, Record Day includes a musical soundtrack to the Game of Thrones series as well as top-quality reissues of albums by Janis Joplin (a greatest hits collection) and The Doors (Absolutely Live).


Vinyl is heading for a 10th straight year of global market growth. Heavy-grade vinyl is beloved by collectors and audiophiles while DJs still prefer mixing from 12-inch singles.

“There is a degree of kudos that goes with vinyl and it fits in with ‘completists’ who hunt down everything from a particular artist and label,” Matt Grimes, Senior Lecturer in Music Industries and Radio at Birmingham City University in the U.K., said in an interview.

The eBay survey found that buyers like to see the 12-inch artwork on covers orginally designed to be seen at that size and which lose impact when they are reduced to a CD inlay or tiny image with a download.

Who benefits? While Cheap Thrills by Big Brother And the Holding Company and Disraeli Gears by Cream are cited as examples, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles is the most famous, reissued this year for its 50thanniversary. The new box set includes a hologram of the original Peter Blake image.

Sgt. PepperUniversal Music

‘Sgt. Pepper’ 6 CD set


“The enduring appeal of CDs continues to surprise,” says Gennaro Castaldo, spokesman for the British industry group BPI. “Although the format has been showing long-term decline, this fall off has been at a softer single digit rate than the larger drops expected.”

The eBay survey found that about a quarter of young buyers purchase physical material to display them as social-media “shelfies,” display cultural capital or bragging rights.

Who benefits? Artists with reissues that can be lined up impressively on the shelf have been doing well- such as the late David Bowie, with his sets of 1970s albums.


Somewhat counter-intuitively, the dramatic rise in audio streaming may be helping. Sales figures show that artists who come back into the news after some news event – such as a Super Bowl show or Grammy win – often get an immediate streaming boost of greatest hits as people discover their music. The same listeners then make a purchase in a physical format when they decide they want to own, collect or gift it.

Who benefits? There is a rationale behind Taylor Swift’s new physical-album release in that revenue from streaming is considerably less than that of physical products. Elsewhere, Amazon has long provided buyers with a free digital version where available when a physical copy is bought.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is restricting digital access to her new album  (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)


The reissues trend is growing, with record numbers this year. Legacy ( Sony ), Rhino (Warner), Hip-O (Universal) are among the specialists. New and announced titles, including anniversary editions and vinyl reissues, are currently running at more than 520 for mainstream artists so far in 2017, an increase from the approximately 460 at the same time a year ago.

Who benefits? Bands from the 1960s onwards that now reunite stand to do well financially if their tours sell out. Still, music lecturer Matt Grimes points out that a good secondary revenue stream can be had from reissues. These can cost very little to make, even if the record company goes to the extent of remastering them: “once you own the copyright, the reproduction does not cost so much,” Grimes says.


Record industry analysts know that while demand may be limited for some of the heritage acts, ‘super fans’ are prepared to pay premium amounts. The reason why sales figures alone do not reflect revenue is because of the premium costings. Supposing a band such as the Velvet Underground sells 40,000 CDs at $10 each for $400,000 venue. Now if it did a limited run of 4,000 at $100 each, the act would get the same revenue.

The result: We are getting more premium quality box sets than ever – both for vinyl and CDs. These are typically beautifully designed and packaged, featuring fine artwork and engaging content to create a highly collectible, ‘must-have’ feel that appeals to the aspirations of these ‘super fans’ in particular. This perceived high value also helps to make them stand out as desirable gift items, while their limited-edition nature also enhances their appeal. Fans of older bands are probably wealthy professionals with funds to buy these.

Who benefits? The classic example is the Grateful Dead, whose 30 Trips Around The Sunwas 73 hours long, spread over 80 CDs for about $700. It soon sold out and went for premium prices.

Broadcasters and others not directly related to the band can benefit too, as was the case with Led Zeppelin’s Complete BBC Sessions, recorded for the British broadcaster.

Fans may buy box sets just for one extra track not available elsewhere (Black Sabbath), for extra demos, rarities, live recordings, remixes or alternative takes (Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Bob Dylan) or even extras such as Pink Floyd scarves or U2 sunglasses. Rush’s A Farwell to Kings 40thanniversary edition out on December 1 is typical. Its box contains three CDs, a Blu-ray audio, four vinyl LPs, a “King’s Ring” in a velvet pouch, a necklace, two lithographs, a turntable mat and a replica tour program.

Happy Black Friday shopping everyone!

 Information for this article was originally posted Mark Beach on Forbes