'Fantastic rebirth of record shops' as vinyl sales grow to highest level in three decades

The coronavirus pandemic may have left gig venues eerily silent, but it has elsewhere driven the resurgence of a retro tradition for music lovers.

Vinyl sales grew to their highest level in more than three decades this year as consumers turned to the retro format.

More than five million vinyl albums were purchased in the UK over the past 12 months, up 8 per cent on last year’s sales, according to figures from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

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This marks the 14th consecutive year of growth for the format since 2007.

Garry Smith and his wife and business partner Hazel who run Concorde Music in Perth together and their son Craig (Photo: Garry Smith).
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The end-of-year figures indicate vinyl albums now account for nearly a quarter of all albums purchased (23 per cent).

Major releases including Abba’s Voyage, Adele’s 30, Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under, Ed Sheeran’s = and Wolf Alice’s Blue Weekend were projected to be among the year’s best sellers.

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The BPI expects to announce classic albums Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and Back To Black by Amy Winehouse are among 2021’s best-selling vinyl albums as part of its annual report.

George Macdonald, who runs Underground Solu’shn in the heart of Edinburgh on Cockburn Street, said the outlet had noticed a rise in vinyl sales this year as a result of coming out of lockdown.

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Concorde Music and its vast selection of vinyl (Photo: Garry Smith).

"When people were able to get out to shops and travel, it was a fantastic rebirth of interest in record shops,” he said.

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"It’s driven not only new issues or new releases being sold, but also a big interest in budget-priced vinyl and second-hand vinyl as well as CDs and cassettes, so it’s right across the board.”

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The report also forecasts some 190,000 cassettes have been purchased in the past 12 months, up a fifth on last year and the highest number since 2003 when 243,000 tapes were sold. Now 54 was the biggest seller on the format.

Despite the vinyl sales increase, Garry Smith who runs long-standing Concorde Music in Perth alongside his wife Hazel said he had an ‘okay’ Christmas (Photo: Garry Smith).
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Mr Macdonald said in-person shops are still threatened by mediums such as streaming. But he said the amount of people who like to own “real art” is on the rise.

Although their store covers a wide array of music, Mr Macdonald said they try to platform local music from Edinburgh artists such as Other Lands and Proc Fiscal, whom he claims have benefited from the vinyl boom in store.

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Garry Smith, who runs long-standing Concorde Music in Perth alongside his wife Hazel, said he had an “OK” Christmas, but this year has not had the best sales.

However, new albums from Adele and Abba “immensely” boosted numbers for vinyl sales, whilst Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Oasis and Arctic Monkeys remained popular.

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Mr Smith said: “It’s been OK, just lack of footfall.

"Vinyl sales were certainly up and the increase in the vinyl sales certainly helped, yet the Christmas period never really kicked into what you would expect.

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"Pre-Covid it would have been a lot busier and a lot of customers said how quiet the town seemed.”

Mr Smith said their biggest problem this year has been that major albums were out of stock due to a pressing issue with vinyl worldwide and a lack of pressing plant facilities.

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“Big back catalogues like The Beatles albums – a lot of those were out of stock for weeks and weeks,” he said. "That probably affected sales slightly because we couldn’t get the albums we wanted."

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