Vinyl Resurgence Being Led by Audiophiles, Millennials

BY Courtney Huckabay
Featured image for “Vinyl Resurgence Being Led by Audiophiles, Millennials”

Vinyl sales have steadily grown over the past decade, with 12 million units moved in 2015, according to Nielsen data. Crosley, the electronics company known for its low-​cost, vintage-​inspired turntables, last year essentially doubled what sales were in 2008, with 1 million turntables sold in 2015.

In a streaming era, records represent a "premium experience"

"A record player was the top selling home-​audio product on Amazon this past holiday season – four decades after the medium was overtaken by the compact disc and declared dead," Kristina Monllos writes in AdWeek.

Take note, then, that 7% of American consumers intend to purchase stereo/​home audio equipment in the next 12 months, according to AudienceSCAN data. This is a great opportunity to get audio retailers to jump on the vinyl bandwagon in ads with you!

"In the first six weeks of this year, sales are up 17 percent compared to the same period last year. Those figures define what Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, refers to as a "consumer-​born trend," one that's impacting record labels, record-​pressing plants, mom-​and-​pop record stores, electronics brands, retailers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Urban Outfitters—and, of course, marketers who are capitalizing on the trend."

"In 2007, Crosley began its relationship with Urban Outfitters, the millennial-​focused clothing chain known for its kitschy tchotchkes and home goods. That relationship has helped redefine Crosley, says Jason Menard, its director of marketing. "Our consumers have sort of dictated that we're a lifestyle brand more than an electronics brand now," he says. "For us, at least, Urban Outfitters had a huge role in turning Crosley into a lifestyle brand."

According to AudienceSCAN, 27.6% of Stereo/​Home Audio Shoppers are aged 25–34.

"In a sense, that is the very point of all this. Vinyl has made its surprising comeback largely because millennials want the kinds of experiences vinyl provides. "Most of my music experience was through [file-​sharing applications] Napster, Kazaa, LimeWire, and then iTunes and the whole digital music revolution," explains 28-​year-​old Matt Fiedler, CEO and co-​founder of Vinyl Me, Please, a record of the month club. "So I think it's our generation coming back to this idea of analog. The more digitized, more technologically advanced the world becomes, the more people crave this kind of physical, tactile experience of something." (Vinyl is not alone, with old-​fashioned products of all sorts—from cassettes and the Polaroid camera to Olivetti typewriters and Field Notes—enjoying a surge in popularity, especially among the young.)"

Millennials might be the ones making it cool again, and setting the trend, but Generation X is spending the dough too. AudienceSCAN revealed that 23% of Stereo/​Home Audio Shoppers are aged 35 to 44.

"Vinyl Me, Please, which launched in January 2013 and by the end of last year had amassed nearly 15,000 members, Fiedler and his partners market to their members a "full sensory experience" for vinyl enthusiasts. What does that entail? Well, not only do they send out a vinyl pressing exclusive to the club's members each month, but that mailing comes with special artwork and a cocktail recipe designed to go with the album. The club also seeks to foster community with a forum, via vinylmeplease​.com, enabling a shared experience around an album," Monllos writes.

"Vinyl Me, Please isn't alone. There's also Vynl, Record Friends, Feedbands, That Special Record, Insound Record Club and more, as a whole band of record of the month clubs have sprung up because of the vinyl boom. It makes sense. The vinyl fan is a high-​value consumer willing to spend in excess of $30 for a newly pressed album. "It's obviously a buyer who is extremely important and doesn't mind paying for the high price of vinyl," notes David Bakula, svp of industry insights at Nielsen. "The audio quality is high, but they're not just paying for that. It's also the packaging, the collectibility, being able to display it and touch it and feel it. That's very important for vinyl buyers. It's a bit of a lifestyle play."

AudienceSCAN research found that 18.9% of Audio Shoppers make $50,000-$74,999 annually and 16.8% of Shoppers bring in $75,000-$99,999 annually, so premium lifestyle choices make sense for this audience.

"Carrie Colliton, co-​founder and director of marketing at Record Store Day, an annual celebration of the 1,400 independent record stores in the U.S. and abroad, agreed. "A record collection or a book collection, it can be a way of marking individuality by what you own," she says."

"Record Store Day kicked off on April 19, 2008, just as vinyl resurrection was beginning, and since its inception, it has become so popular that major U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and others have declared it an official holiday. On April 18 last year, it got major social pickup, with 79,000 tweets mentioning Record Store Day and 47,000 tweets mentioning vinyl, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence. This year, Record Store Day will take place on April 16, with Metallica serving as its ambassador."

"Streaming and downloads are almost like a commodity to a degree, where everything is the same," Gary Kelly, head of digital and revenue at Interscope, says. "People are searching for that premium experience where they can show they are a superfan, and they can have that artwork sitting in their record collection or dorm room. We're in the digital age, but here we are going back to analog in some respects."

"It wasn't until Interscope saw major success with the 2012 release of Lana Del Rey's album Born to Die—which spawned 118,000 vinyl units, representing 9 percent of overall sales, many of them sold through Urban Outfitters—that Interscope realized the power of the vinyl trend, according to Kelly. "Now vinyl can be 10, even 15 percent of your business on a particular artist," he points out, noting that the label's marketing efforts around vinyl are on an album-​by-​album basis. "It's really become a fundamental part of how we do business."

"That it was natural is no doubt a big reason the vinyl renaissance has had such legs. "If this was marketed to millennials, they wouldn't bite," says NPD Group's Cohen. "If you try and force it on a new generation, they're not buying it. They're buying it if they feel like they discovered it, so you almost have to let it come to you."

Many of Erika Records' recording clients have the plant include a free digital download card with each vinyl copy. "We don't see it as the digital world versus the analog world—we see the two working well together to keep music alive," Dela Cerna of Erika Records says.

Home Audio Shoppers think analog and digital can work together too. AudienceSCAN found that 23.3% stream their music with Spotify and 22.9% use iTunes Radio. And 33.1% plan to pay for high-​speed Internet service for their homes. 25.4% are shopping for iPads or Android touchscreen tablets.

"Over the past two years, iHeartRadio has created four stations dedicated to vinyl, with 260 million listeners tuning in every month. Vinyl "will never take over again as the mainstream platform," John Sykes, president of entertainment enterprises at iHeartMedia says. "But it might just find its place as an alternative for people who both want high quality and want to experience music on the format it was originally created on."