Is Free Streaming Causing the Vinyl Boom?
By Michael Greig Thomas
Vinyl sales recently reached their highest level in almost 30 years, and free streaming may be helping to drive these sales.
It had originally been feared that the shift to online audio streaming would contribute to a decline in physical music sales. As the music industry adapted to a digital age, it was anticipated that a proliferation of streaming sites and applications would affect not just the way people chose to listen to music, but also how and where they chose to spend their money.
After all, why would someone go out and buy a record if they could listen to it for free on YouTube?
Try Before You Buy
It turns out these fears were greatly unfounded, at least in terms of free streaming sites. Not only has streaming and vinyl managed to co-exist in the market, but free streaming has had a marked positive influence on vinyl record sales. In fact, far from contributing to a decline, free music has actually helped drive physical music sales.
A recent poll by ICM, commission by the BBC, revealed that the most frequent vinyl buyer is a free-access streamer. Music fans are using platforms such as YouTube and Spotify as a discovery tool to sample music before they decide if they want to invest in a physical purchase. They are also swayed by the authentic sound quality and the fact that more money ends up in the artist’s pocket.
Vinyl vs Streaming
The enduring appeal of vinyl has surprised many. According to new music industry research:
- 1 million LPs were purchased by music fans in 2014, as demand increased for an eighth successive year – climbing 64% to a 21-year high.
- Whilst vinyl only represents two per cent of the overall music market, LP sales have risen tenfold over the past eight years, and even large retailers such as Tesco have started stocking 12-inch records.
- Millennials constitute the biggest chunk of all vinyl buyers, representing a third of the market.
- Millennials and generation X claim to use free streaming services and purchase vinyl in equal measures, although more millennials than older generations pay for both streaming subscriptions and records.
Discover On Digital, Collect On Vinyl
Although independent record stores are on the up, they only represent 7% of all vinyl sales in the UK. With over a quarter of vinyl sales now been made online, the romantic notion of spending an afternoon rooting through dusty old records is slowly fading, and the likes of YouTube and Spotify are fast becoming the first point of discovery for new music, especially amongst younger generations.
As Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry put it: “Younger fans increasingly discover on digital but collect on vinyl. [They] appreciate the immediacy and convenience of services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play to discover and enjoy a huge range of new music, but still want to own and collect albums by artists they truly love.”
Something For Everyone
We are lucky enough to live at a time when music exists on different platforms and can serve different purposes for different people. Ultimately, if you like having records, online streaming is only going to help you buy more.
Do you stream? Does it influence your vinyl purchases?