The news that LP, or vinyl, sales had overtaken digital downloads for the first time in history was hard to miss last week. There is no denying that the medium is making something of a comeback, but is it really the phoenix we might want to believe?
The LP has seen a steady revival in recent years, and in this 8th decade of album cover art’s history ‘vinyl’ has become hugely fashionable again. Last week the Entertainment Retailers Association announced that vinyl sales had hit £2.4m the previous week compared with the £2.1m made from digital music purchases. This was widely reported in the mainstream press and it is indeed quite a landmark, with vinyl record sales increasing by 100% year-on-year.
What does this really mean for digital though? In the same news day as the 'vinyl versus downloads' headlines, Apple announced that it had attracted 20 million subscribers in the 18 months since it launched Apple Music; streaming services are the average user's no-brainer solution to consuming music and must have contributed to a drop in download sales.
Streaming services might also be contributing to the resurgence of the 12" record. Anyone who really cares about their music will likely feel a pang of guilt as their consumption far outstrips their monthly direct debit. They may also have a little extra budget left for the luxury of vinyl, the physical allure of which has never really been surpassed, and which the industry is now able to play to. Perhaps all these vinyl subscription clubs, listening parties and countless elaborately packaged new and re-releases give the music lover a chance to quell that pang of guilt by truly taking possession of an album previously streamed (or, in other words, rented) and loved; tested and found worthy.