The future of music listening may be streamed over the Net, but the good old-fashioned vinyl record continues to hang on.
And for those who cherish long-playing records this Saturday is Record Store Day, a retail celebration that sends many shoppers to independent record stores to secure special limited edition releases.
In its 12th year, Record Store Day has been credited with helping keep the vinyl business alive. Vinyl sales had plummeted to $15.7 million in 2006, but has grown annually to $419.2 million in 2018, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
That amounts to 4.3% of total spending on recorded music in 2018, the RIAA says. Paid music subscriptions to services such as Spotify and Pandora make up 47.3% of the $9.8 billion spent in 2018.
Back in 2007, vinyl sales made up only 0.2% of the recorded music market. At the same time, appreciation of vinyl remained high as CD sales and total spending plummeted.
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Independent record store owners and employees concocted Record Store Day as way to celebrate the format, attract consumers and encourage new releases.
Metallica played a live performance on the first Record Store Day April 19, 2008 at Rasputin Music in San Francisco. “Metallica was the first band we took the idea to that said, yes they would help,” said Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day and president of The Department of Record Stores, which has 72 independent stores in the U.S. and 12 in Canada.
More than 600 fans showed up and “the band members welcomed each and every one and treated them with such kindness,” Kurtz said. “There would be no Record Store Day without Metallica.”
Each year, some artists do performances at stores. Metallica served as official Record Store Day ambassadors again in 2016 and you see their performances on the MetallicaTV YouTube channel.
This year, Pearl Jam is the event’s ambassadors and they have a special limited release available Saturday, “Pearl Jam Live at Easy Street,” a recording of a live 2005 performance at Seattle’s Easy Street Records.
The first Record Store Day had only 10 special releases, but this year there will be about 375. Check RecordStoreDay.com for participating stores and all the releases – from Al Green and Janis Joplin to Albert King and Jeff Tweedy.
More facts about Record Store Day and vinyl
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•Vinyl spending. It may sound like a broken record, but consumers spent more on vinyl last year than in 2017. Vinyl sales increased 8% to $419.2 million. That’s the most since 1988, when vinyl sales hit $532.2 million.
Despite increased interest in vinyl, record store revenue has declined about 7% annually over the last five years, and will hit an estimated $1.5 billion in 2019, according to market research firm IBISWorld.
•Listening habits. Vinyl LP percentage of total physical album sales has grown at the same time CD sales and overall physical album sales have declined.
There were 16.4 million LPs sold in 2018, accounting for 19% of all albums sold (86.5 million), Nielsen says. Back in 2009, vinyl LP sales of 2.5 million, accounted for only 1% of the nearly 307 million physical albums sold.
Sales of vinyl on Record Store Day alone have risen from 17,000 discs to 733,000 in 2018, Nielsen says.
•Record stores by the numbers. Independent record stores accounted for 45% of vinyl sales in 2015, according to Nielsen. Overall, there are 2,419 record stores in the U.S., down from 5,259 in 2012, according to IBISWorld.
Higher margins for vinyl have led other stores including Barnes & Noble and other retailers to add vinyl sections. More than 3,000 independent record stores worldwide are participating Saturday.
•Rock rocks on. The most popular genre for vinyl? Rock. Consumers bought 10.4 million rock albums in 2018, about 12% more than in 2017, according to Nielsen. R&B/Hip-hop came in second with 2.25 million sold, an increase of 25%.
•Vinyl projections. Record store industry revenue is expected to fall an annualized 3.4% to $1.3 billion. Albums of all formats (vinyl, downloads, CDs) are in decline as streaming lets listeners pick and choose.
Album sales are expected to fall from about 350 million units sold in 2010 to about 150 million this year and 125 million in 2024, according to IBISWorld.
Still, there’s some hope that vinyl will hook younger consumers. As spending has risen an estimated annualized 23.7% over the last five years, there’s been increased interest from the college-age demographic, IBISWorld says.
More than half of record buyers are aged 45 and over, IBISWorld says, 35% are aged 25-45, with nearly 10% aged 24 or younger.
Record Store Day special releases
With about 375 special releases available in stores, there’s probably something for everyone. Record Store Day co-founder Kurtz listed his top five in Goldmine magazine. His favorite? A four-disc set with 43 songs by Todd Rundgren in The Complete U.S. Bearsville & Warner Bros. Singles.
Other coveted releases:
•Aretha Franklin, The Atlantic Singles 1967. A box set that collects five 7-inch singles including “Respect,” “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel)” and “Chain Of Fools.”
•Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks. A recreation of a rare test pressing made in early 1975 before the actual album was released. Dylan re-recorded five of the songs for the final album. Tracks include “Tangled Up In Blue” and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
•Soccer Mommy, For Young Hearts. The original EP that launched the career of the singer-songwriter Sophie Allison was only made available on 300 cassettes. The green vinyl disc comes with a poster.
•Green Day: Woodstock 1994. The band’s live performance from the festival is a 10-song set that includes “Welcome To Paradise,” and “Basket Case” on a single LP.
•The Grateful Dead, Sage and Spirit. Record Store Day brewery Dogfish Head partnered with the iconic band’s archivist and legacy manager, David Lemieux to create a 10-track special release that includes live recordings of “Jack Straw” and “Brown-Eyed Women” from the band’s European tour in 1972.
•The Flaming Lips, King’s Mouth: Music & Songs. The new album has 12 tracks and narration from the Clash’s Mick Jones; 4,000 vinyl copies will be pressed and another version won’t be available until July. The band’s frontman Wayne Coyne will sign copies of the album at Rough Trade NYC at noon. More information on FlamingLips.com.
•Prince, Prelude 2 Gold. A recreation of a cassette given to Versace collection attendees at 1995 Fashion Week in Paris. The tracks include rare tracks and remixes of songs from then-forthcoming The Gold Experience.
•John Hiatt & Lilly Hiatt, You Must Go/All Kinds Of People. The singer-songwriter and his daughter, an acclaimed artist herself, recorded one of the other’s songs for this limited edition 7-inch 45.
•My personal favorite? An until-now unavailable live set by R.E.M. The story, according to Billboard, the band played two nights at London’s the Borderline in March 1991 just before releasing their album “Out of Time.” They played under the assumed name of Bingo Hand Job.
•U2, The Europa EP. As heard on U2’s recent tour – Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the 1940 film “The Great Dictator, the show’s intro, and live versions of “Love Is All We Have Left” and “New Year’s Day” from November 5, 2018 in Dublin. The other side has remixes of “New Year’s Day” “Love Is All We Have Left.” Comes with stickers and a slick lyric sheet.
•Tiny tracks. Many stores will sell a special record player, the RSD3 Mini-Turntable, which plays special 3-inch discs. Some will come with a special Foo Fighters, “Big Me” disc. Third Man Records in Nashville and Detroit will offer their own 3-inch player and offer a special set of singles from The White Stripes.
•Scavenger hunt. Not all the most cherished finds will be special releases. A dozen record stores will each have one hidden record, valued collectively at more than $1,500, hidden in the $1 vinyl bins. Among them: a rare original mono pressing of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 1979 reissue of the Pink Floyd classic “Dark Side of the Moon.” Details on the Reverb LP web site.
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