Digital sales of entire albums are up by 44% as supply squeeze turns album releases into product plonk
Online music retailer Amazon just met its sale target of one million vinyl albums in the third quarter – a rise of 30%, and 23% on the same period last year.
Although there’s little doubt that a new generation of fans are flocking to vinyl – and due to the interest some of the year’s biggest albums have featured vinyl versions – the figures suggest there’s an impact on the slowing advance of new music releases as companies try to stretch and secure their supply of new material.
Things have been particularly hard on B-sides and remixes, a £25 genre that has both done well in vinyl and digitally. Amazon music division head Mike George said: “Some of our top B-sides and remix albums have been 100% digital.”
Vinyl specialists in London’s Kentish Town and Stratford-upon-Avon are also trying to source their vinyl stock earlier this year, rather than waiting until after a record is released. There has been a big increase in demand for new vinyl out-of-stock edition as acts, eager to beat a squeeze, have turned to the practice of making extra copies and launching vinyl “flushes”, where customers can get more copies.
Oasis’s 1994 single Record Store Day release is one example, on which a brand new limited-edition vinyl version was released to pre-order.
“At the moment, anything that sells well digitally, like Adele’s LPs, may have an extra physical version to sell alongside,” George said. “That’s when we see an increase in physical sales. The ‘last-minute’ physical edition is a very, very lucrative thing to do.”
The launch of separate digital and physical versions of music before a record has been released is increasingly common – for example, Drake was doing that for his 2018 single I’m Upset last year. It does require extra physical product to be released alongside the digital version, and in some cases, can mean an overlap.
However, George said it’s not worth any rethink to the major labels’ decision, announced last year, to increase production of physical products, delaying their releases and concentrating on pushing digital first. “The model was always there,” he said. “We would be doing terrible things to the audience if we tried to change the model.”