New data released by the BPI featured in its annual yearbook All About The Music 2020 and compiled by the Official Charts Company shows that Queen were the biggest-selling artist on vinyl LP in 2019.
The group sold over 75,000 vinyl albums last year across all their classic titles such as A Night At The Opera and News Of The World as well as compilations including Greatest Hits and the best-selling film soundtrack to Bohemian Rhapsody. The Beatles – whose iconic Abbey Road was reissued in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of its original release, with interest boosted by the Yesterday movie – were in second place, with the ever-popular David Bowie a close third.
Whilst other iconic artists such as Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac also featured in the top 10 to underline the enduring appeal of heritage acts, so too did 18-year old Billie Eilish, who was the seventh-biggest vinyl artist of the year despite only having two titles available on the format (her mini-album Don’t Smile At Me and her full-length debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?).
Liam Gallagher’s Why Me? Why Not was the most in-demand individual title, selling over 29,000 copies. The top 10 included new album releases by Billie Eilish and Lewis Capaldi alongside catalogue classics such as Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and Oasis’s 1994 debut Definitely Maybe.
Vinyl LP sales have now grown for 12 consecutive years, increasing by 4.1 per cent in 2019, with over 4.3m copies sold over the course of the year. The represents a rise of around 2,000 per cent since the format’s low point in 2007, and the highest level of demand since the very early Nineties. One in eight albums sold are now on vinyl, and the average yearly spend per vinyl consumer rose by over a tenth in 2019 to more than £90 (according to survey data from Kantar Worldpanel).
All About The Music 2020 author, BPI’s Rob Crutchley, said:
“The continuing growth in demand for albums on vinyl and even cassette – now boosted by a new generation of artists such as Billie Eilish and Lewis Capaldi alongside more established heritage acts such as Queen – underlines the enduring appeal of analogue alongside streaming and CD, and the fact there is still a strong core of fans who also value the opportunity to acquire, own or gift recorded music on physical format.
“CD also continues to make its presence felt in the Official Albums Chart, with physical formats accounting for the majority of consumption on most of the albums claiming the weekly number one spot in 2019.”
All About The Music 2020 also gives some interesting insights into the lifestyle of the vinyl buyer, drawn from AudienceNet’s Audiomonitor survey. Most intriguingly, a fifth (21%) of vinyl buyers reported not actually owning a vinyl player. And while, on a typical day, they are more likely – compared to the overall population – to watch online TV, play video games and listen to music, their leisure time is not completely confined to the home: they are more sporty than average and are also keen gig and festival-goers (which are a key source of music discovery for them). Despite their predilection for physical formats they are not averse to accessing their music in other ways. They are more likely to own a smart speaker and, according to Kantar, well over half (61.7%) of vinyl buyers pay to access the premium tier of a music streaming service such as Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music, compared with just under half (49.2%) of all music buyers and 28.4 per cent of the overall population.
The BPI yearbook also publishes data showing the importance of physical formats such as vinyl, CD and cassettes in establishing who makes the No.1 spot each week on the Official Albums Chart. In the majority (29) of weeks in 2019, physical formats accounted for over half of chart-eligible sales of the No.1 album. For the last 15 weeks of the year physical comprised the majority of chart-eligible sales on the top title, accounting for more than 75 per cent of sales in 13 of those weeks. Releases by Tom Walker, Lana Del Rey, BTS and Sam Fender were among those claiming top spot with a physical share of more than 60 per cent.
So far in 2020 the new albums by Blossoms, Green Day, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott and BTS have all hit No.1 with physical shares of over 75 per cent and even in recent weeks, when availability on the High Street has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, releases by Niall Horan and 5 Seconds Of Summer have claimed #1s with physical the dominant contributor. This week the second album by singer-songwriter Gerry Cinnamon, The Bonny, is heading for the No.1 one spot with physical again likely to be contributing the majority of its chart-eligible total.
Drew Hill, Managing Director of Proper Music Group, who distribute the physical album, said: “Predictions of the death of physical feel like they’ve been circulating almost as long as Nostradamus, with titles as erudite as the Economist claiming in 2008 that “the record industry's main product, the CD… is rapidly fading away”. A decade on, physical music is still proving the kingmaker for chart success, and despite lockdown-related store closures, half of this year’s no 1 albums reached the top selling a lot more physical copies than anything else.”
Although the physical music market has been severely impacted by COVID-19, the music community has rallied round. Orders placed with online and mail order services of indie shops and specialist chains have picked up some of the slack, while social campaigns such as LoveRecordStores and RecordStoreoftheDay, and initiatives like the Official Charts Company’s Indie Record Store Finder have underlined the continuing importance of the physical market – worth £318m in 2019 according to ERA – and the enduring love that remains for physical formats.
The BPI’s annual yearbook All About the Music 2020 gives a detailed insight into the year in UK recorded music in 2019 through lots of facts, figures and informed analysis.
“All About The Music 2020” is available free to all BPI members and can be purchased from the BPI’s website here.