Vinyl Sales Up 22% in U.S. in First Half of 2023,


The vinyl boom is not going bust anytime soon. In the first half of 2023, vinyl LP sales were up 21.7% from the same period the year before, a robust vote of confidence for the format that has dominated album sales in recent years. That’s one of the findings in Luminate’s Midyear Music Report, being released by the leading data company today.

That the vinyl format would be experiencing some kind of growth is not a surprise in and of itself is not a surprise. After all, 2022 marked the 17th consecutive year that vinyl saw a rise, so it was perhaps inevitable that 2023 would keep the streak going. Yet the whopping growth rate over the last six months is reassuring after, last year at this time, Luminate’s study showed the format had then only risen by 1%, leading some to believe the market had found its natural plateau after explosive bursts of quarantine buying that caused a 108% increase in 2021. This latest uptick is proving that a raging pandemic isn’t required for the avid interest in LPs to expand further still.

The vinyl increase is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s included in Luminate’s report, which presents everything from findings on Americans’ growing consumption of non-English-language music to the usual inclusion of charts listing the biggest-selling and -streaming albums of the year so far.

The entire study can be downloaded at this link. (Luminate will also host a live webinar, open to the public, to explore the findings today at 9 a.m. PT/noon ET; the signup page is here.)

Other formats besides LPs are included in the Luminate study, of course, and for once, almost nothing was down from the previous year — not even compact discs. But nothing else is remotely in the same ballpark in overall consumption as streaming, which isn’t anywhere near a ceiling in its growth rates.

Streaming growth is bigger overseas at this point than in the U.S., though — by double. On-demand audio and video streams were up by 15% in the U.S. so far this year, but increased by 30.8% globally.

The international market with by far the biggest streaming leap was Asia, with a 107% boost in on-demand audio and video streams over the first half of 2022. Also seeing significant gains were Latin America, up 70%, and Europe, with a 57% increase, versus the States’ creditable 15%.

As for physical album sales in the U.S., those were up 13.3%, including CDs and cassettes as well as vinyl. Compact discs saw a 3.8% increase — a sign of life for a format many long since pronounced dead. Cassettes, which represents a niche collectors’ market at this point (with a total of 212,000 units for the year’s first half), rose 5.8%. Overall album sales increased by 7.9%, with the big vinyl boost counterbalanced by still-diminishing returns for paid digital downloads.

One finding in Luminate’s study is that direct-to-consumer sales are on the rise, with artists finding bigger audiences of fans who want to order product from their own websites. D2C vinyl sales were up even more than the overall LP picture, with a 26% boost. In the first half of the year, one out of every nine pieces of vinyl sold came from a director-to-consumer website.

The list of the bestselling vinyl albums of the year so far has some usual suspects old (the Beatles, Michael Jackson) and newer (Lana Del Rey). It’s no surprise that Taylor Swift’s “Midnights” is the biggest mover of LPs so far this year, with 251,000.(That’s not nearly its overall total, since the album came out with a bang last October.) But what is surprising, perhaps, is Boygenius and Melanie Martinez crashing the ranks of vinyl bestsellers. The LP top 10 so far this year:

1 Taylor Swift, “Midnights,” 251,000 copies

2 Lana Del Rey, “Did You Know That There‘s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd,” 132,000

3 Taylor Swift, “Folklore,” 107,000

4 Tyler, the Creator, “Igor,” 104,000

5 Fleetwood Mac, “Rumours,” 103,000

6 Boygenius,”The Record,” 100,000

7 Melanie Martinez, “Portals,” 93,000

8 Michael Jackson, “Thriller,” 85,000

9 Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon,” 85,000

10 Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die,” 84,000

In contrast, the list of the 10 biggest-selling CDs of the year is made up wholly of K-pop albums, with the exception of Taylor Swift’s “Midnights,” landing at No. 6 with 176,000. The CDs list is led by Tomorrow x Together’s “The Name Chapter: Temptation.”

Luminate’s study looks at which genres fare best and worst in different formats. There are only thee genres where physical media accounts for more than 10% of overall consumption: jazz, where vinyl and CDs add up to to a 24.2% share; world music, where physical media comes in with 23,4%, and rock, which still has 18.1% of consumption happening physically. The worst market for physical media? Latin music, where tangible sales of discs only add up to 0.5% of consumption.

It may come as a surprise in the study that 40% of U.S. listeners have music in a language other than music as at least part of their listening diet. In the U.S., 26% consume Spanish-language music, far ahead of the nearest competitors — music in French or Japanese both attracting 8% of listeners and songs in Korean getting the attention of 7%. Italian, German and Arabic follow.

Does music flow the other direction? It does. The study gets into the surprising growth of country music internationally, including nations where English is not the first language.

The most daunting fact in the study? In the first half of 2023, there were 112,000 new tracks released… a day. That’s a significant increase from the average 93,400 fresh songs that were released daily over the course of 2022. Needless to say, probably, the vast majority of those 112,000 daily additions to the song canon are independently released, with only 3.3% of the total track releases coming from major distributors.

Anyone who looks even occasionally at a weekly chart story will not be surprised which artist has the honor of owning both the biggest album and biggest single of the year before, on the year-to-date Billboard charts that are included in the report. That artist is country superstar Morgan Wallen, with his blockbuster album “One Thing at a Time” and its single “Last Night.” The 3.312 million album-equivalent units for Wallen’s album is followed by SZA’s December release “SOS” in second place for this year (1.982 million units) and Swift’s October album “Midnights” in third place (1.876 million).

However, when it comes to pure album sales, Swift is inevitably on top, as “Midnights” sold 607,000 full copies in just these last six months — 251,000 of those on vinyl, as previously noted.

The report reveals an important extension of the services Luminate will be offering in the near future. Shortly, the company — which is the successor to Nielsen and SoundScan — will begin offering data for 47 additional countries. That’s on top of the data services that Luminate already offers for the U.S, and Canada and a 40-nation global market as a whole. The company is offering demos to interested parties presently in advance of a launch of the new service.

Said Rob Jonas, CEO of Luminate, in summing up the report: “Verified data is essential to understand the who, where, and why of shifts in cultural trends, especially given the ever-growing global nature of the music industry and the continued disruption and growth of music engagement at-large. As laid out in Luminate’s Midyear Music Report released today, the story of music in the first half of 2023 is defined by more empowered Super Fans with a growing hunger to support their favorite artists, more engagement with non-English music in the U.S., and more content being uploaded on a daily basis, which creates more opportunities and challenges. The key word here is ‘more,’ which leads to the need for a more focused and insights-fueled understanding of worldwide music listener habits. We are especially looking forward to Luminate’s new international data offering expanding the entertainment industry’s understanding of existing and forthcoming trends outside of the U.S. market in the coming quarters.”

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