Vinyl turns the tables on digital music downloads in December

How many MP3s did you buy in the first week of December? In all likelihood, not very many at all. So few digital downloads were purchased, in fact, that for the first time since it was enough of a thing for anyone to bother measuring sales, vinyl outsold digital music downloads in the UK.

Vinyl turns the tables on digital music downloads in December

Vinyl records. The same medium that has faced down competition from cassette tapes, MiniDiscs and compact discs has now beaten digital downloads in the long game, as this chart from our friends at Statista neatly shows. It’s a narrow but clear margin: while digital albums beat vinyl albums by £3.2 million in week 48 last year, this December the tables have turned:20161207_alphr_vinyl

Vinyl sales have grown for eight consecutive years now, quite a turnaround from near extinction in 2006. The real story here though is the total collapse of digital download sales: crashing from £4.4 million to £2.1 million in 12 months is not the sign of a thriving medium. So are the days of digital music numbered?

Not exactly, no. Part of the reason for the decline in sales is down to physical ownership through vinyl and CD, but more still is giving up on the download for streaming. As we saw back in September, Spotify has cracked 40 million paying subscribers, with Apple Music following on 17 million.

Whether these platforms will ever be able to turn a profit like vinyl has, more or less, for the past 85 years remains to be seen. Streaming companies shouldn’t get too complacent: there’s still plenty of life in the old wax yet, while Spotify continues to lose millions of dollars every year.

Image: Hernan Pinera used under Creative Commons

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