WPGM Commentary: Vinyl Sales Flow Thanks To Online Streaming

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In a world where technological innovation is king, retro has now become “cool”. Taking something from the “old school” and making it trendy has become fashionable in a variety of industries. From upcycling old furniture to give it a new lease of life to vintage clothing, retro is in and that’s thanks, in part, to technology.

In fact, while modern technology was once seen as the death knell for certain things, it’s now being hailed as an inspiration, as a means to bring new life to those very things. A classic point in case is the world of books: When Amazon first released the Kindle in 2007, it took the world by storm and by 2013 Forbes estimated that almost 44 million units had been sold worldwide.

Books are Back

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The advent of eBooks inspired a new generation to get more into reading and while they initially downloaded their content, many are now flicking through the pages of physical books. In 2015 the UK’s largest book retailer, Waterstones, stopped selling Kindles simply because the annual sales weren’t enough to justify their shelf space. Moreover, physical book sales now outstrip Kindle sales by more than 5X (563 million vs. 2.7 billion), showing that old school books are back in fashion.

In the music industry the same is also true. The latest figures suggest that streaming services such as Spotify have turned people back into music in such a way that brought vinyl sales back on the up. According to an ICM poll shared with the BBC, half of consumers listen to an album online before buying it on vinyl. What’s more, vinyl sales have increased by 260% since 2009 thanks to services such as Pandora and Spotify.

From Virtual to Vinyl

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One of the reasons for the increase in vinyl sales is undoubtedly increased access to new music. At the touch of a button everyone can now scroll through millions of songs and listen to them in an instant. In fact, thanks to intelligent search and suggestion functions, platforms such as Spotify can introduce users to new artists and songs based on the content they previously viewed – and more importantly, appreciated.

Another reason Spotify has helped push up the sale of vinyl records is that it’s become “cool” to listen to music. According to Ofcom, the average adult in the UK spends more than 20 hours a week online and four in ten now use a tablet – which is double the numbers recorded a decade ago. With more people spending more time online, it’s natural that many of today’s social influencers are based in the virtual arena.

Social Influencers Boosting Sales

Kiev, Ukraine - August 26, 2013 - A collection of well-known social media brands printed on paper and placed on plastic signs. Include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram and Tumblr logos.
Thanks to services such as Twitch, professional gamers and poker players are like modern day celebrities. Indeed, Twitch now broadcasts more than 13 billion minutes of gaming content to more than 45 million users each month and those numbers are only getting bigger. What started off as a platform for hardcore gamers playing (and watching) the likes of Jonathan ‘Fatal1ty’ Wendel and Lee ‘Jaedong’ Jae Dong play games such as StarCraft has since turned into a multifaceted platform.

Back in April 2015, Twitch announced that it was adding a dedicated service for poker players who wanted to follow the trends set out by professional gamers. Since that time a host of high-profile players, including the king of Twitch poker, Jason Somerville, have become celebrities in their own right. In fact, such is the influence of these millionaire poker players on the average online viewer that you can now check out their track lists online.

For example, the popular Brazilian pro Andre Akkari has his own PokerStars music playlist, which fans can check out and access directly from his profile page. Containing tunes such as Patota De Cosme by Zeca Pagodinho, Andre’s “grinding poker playlist” is a great way for fans of poker to find new tracks to pump them up while at the green felt.

Similarly, Nash Grier and other social media celebrities are now markedly more influential than traditional TV celebrities of old. Grier currently has more than 11 million followers on Vine and if one of his six-second videos contains a certain song then it’s highly likely many of his followers will seek it out.

Artists Enjoying the Revival

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The upshot of this is that vinyl sales are on the up and artists are making more from actual record sales. Just over a decade ago the advent of music online was seen as the end of the record industry as we know it. However, over the last couple of years we’ve actually seen that it’s become the savior of the industry. In 2015 alone there were 17 million vinyl disc sales in the US (an increase of 28%) and artists made $416 million in royalties from record sales.

Moreover, with online streaming exposing listeners to new artists all the time, it’s made it possible for bands to breakthrough in ways they previously couldn’t. Indeed, even here at We Plug Good Music we’re constantly being turned on to new artists via the internet. From curious rock outfits like Depeche Choad, who are a little tongue in cheek, to the highly recommended Habitats’ EP Jungles, we’re able to find and promote the best music online so you can then go out and buy it.

There’s no doubt that modern technology has changed the way we interact with the world around us. However, as the lines between online and offline have been blurred, the old adage that technology was killing certain industries simply isn’t true anymore. As the music industry has shown, physical record sales can actually benefit from the internet if the two products are aligned correctly.

More Music, More Interest

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Spotify, Pandora and any other streaming service make it easy to find and listen to music of all genres. Whether it’s a mainstream hit or an obscure album track, streaming services turn us on to music and once the flame has been lit it helps boost sales across the industry. As we’ve shown, vinyl sales are on the increase and more people are now willing to go out and see a band live.

From small shows like the Malpaso Gang Live at Café Drummond (which we reviewed here) to stadium tours featuring Little Mix, more people are heading out to listen to live music and that’s thanks to online streaming services. Technology has made retro cool again and that’s why vinyl is now the in thing with music lovers around the world.

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