Culture

For the Record

Despite streaming services still being the preferred way for Australians to listen to music, vinyl sales continue to increase, with no signs of dropping any time soon. Story and photo by Brad Hayne @LintMusic

The temporary closure or permanent shutdown of many small music stores across the country in 2020 didn’t seem to drastically affect vinyl sales figures, with records outselling all other physical mediums combined.

Sales for vinyl in Australia first peaked way back in 1987, at approximately $80 million for the year, before the rise of compact discs saw the format basically die out, dropping to its lowest point in 2007 at just $2 million.

The popularity of downloading and file sharing in the early 2000’s spelt the death of the ‘old fashioned’ format.

But in the past decade, record sales have rapidly continued to rise, sometimes doubling the previous years sales numbers. It has become so big again in Australia that ARIA launched a chart in 2018 specifically to track vinyl sales.

Nick Bennett is a radio personality with 40 years experience in the industry, and has seen the trends in Australia fluctuate.

“When CDs first came to Australia, turntables weren’t made redundant, but they were just a thing you’d have down the back of the studio to play vinyl on occasionally. And CDs became the preferred format,” says Mr Bennett about his time in radio during the digital changeover. “It was embraced by all of us.”

But he still prefers vinyl over all other formats. “Being hands on gives you more awareness [of the music]. It’s more tactile.”

On the street level, independent record stores have strangely weathered the storm of 2020 quite well. Nicolas Irwin is co-owner of Music Farmers Records in Wollongong, and said while sales for the 6 months leading up to lock-down were slower than that of previous years, no live music saw people buying massive amounts of vinyl instead.

“Sales went up 50-100%. We basically ran out of second hand stock,” says Mr Irwin. “Now the curve-ball is how much the Job Keeper payment added to sales as well.”

While it looks like nothing will touch streaming services in terms of revenue for a very long time, the nostalgia and ability to hold, cherish and pass on physical formats will likely see vinyl sales continue to rise.

“LP’s can pop and crackle and hiss and hum a bit, and there’s something really special about that sound,” says Nick Bennett. “It’s a little bit sad that some people have only had listening experiences that involve earbuds.”

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