Skip to main content

Olivia Gregoris, left, and Cassandra Johnston shop at Kops Records in Toronto on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

MATTHEW SHERWOOD/The Globe and Mail

Digital downloads and streaming remain the king of music sales, but the resurgence of vinyl records is shifting into high gear.

Vinyl sales in Canada have increased 53 per cent since this time last year, and sales in the U.S. are up 33 per cent in the same period. Since 2006, the vinyl music sector in the U.S. has grown 677 per cent.

"Everyone is trying to figure out just how big this thing is going to be," says David Bakula, senior vice- president of Industry Insights for Nielsen Entertainment.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's not that it is driving the business the way streaming is, but the growth is substantial."

The digitization of the industry has certainly turned music into a convenient commodity, easily accessible with the tap of a finger or click of a mouse.

On-demand streaming of digital music, from services such as Songza or Beats, is up 42 per cent year-over-year in the U.S., according to new data from Billboard and Nielsen Entertainment. Digital downloads, after years of strong growth, dipped slightly last year – they're down 11.6 per cent – as music lovers flocked to the new streaming options.

For an audience who only knows music as an impulse buy or succession of single purchases, vinyl is introducing them to the experience of a complete album while creating a new revenue stream for artists. Musicians make just fractions of a penny off of the stream of a song. But, depending on the record deal, they may make in the ballpark of a couple of dollars per sale of a vinyl record. Independent artists pressing music into vinyl take home even more.

"There is a preconceived idea that the vinyl is an old-folks market, but it isn't any more," says Martin Koppel, owner of Toronto's oldest record store, Kops Records,. "It is quite common now to have young people hold vinyl music parties where they sit around, discuss and listen to the music."

The resurgence of vinyl isn't just about blowing off the dust of a secondhand Pretty in Pink soundtrack found in a milk crate at the back of a record store either. Major retailers such as HMV Canada or Sunrise Records continue to expand their shelving space dedicated to the format at the expense of the dwindling CD.

"Artists have largely learned more about who their fan base is and how they want to consume music," Mr. Bakula says. "It's about putting something exclusive into the mix. Exclusive content or exclusive packaging to collect and show off."

Story continues below advertisement

Turntables are turning up at mass retailers such as Best Buy, Target or even Urban Outfitters, with inexpensive replacement parts compared to previous generations. And though the format is most popular with rock and alternative artists, brand new albums are being released on the format by many mainstream artists including Lady Gaga, Coldplay and Michael Jackson, often with a digital download included.

"The record companies also never had a replacement for the CD," Mr. Koppel says. "CDs were finishing and they had nothing to sell to the young market because of downloading. Now when teenagers buy a record, whether it be Arcade Fire or the Beatles, this is the first time that the record is physically new for them."

For artists and labels, it is lifeline for profit-making while building a more intimate relationship with fans. For listeners, it is simply about the complete experience – the return of vinyl is about making music tangible again.

"It is an investment," says Chris Forrest, a 29-year-old music producer and owner of Synicalist Records in London, Ont. Mr. Forrest has a personal collection of more than 300 records and presses vinyl for his artists. "There is something about having that record in your hand and the process of pulling it out, putting it on the player and dropping that needle. It makes you more interested in the music."

The vinyl boom can be traced back to 2006 or 2007, when the format started moving beyond trendy underground groups and into popular music. DJs began opting for digital turntables and eventually back to the old scratched records. Vinyl also began to make appearances in Hollywood films such as Iron Man, helping to introduce a younger audience to the format.

"There is a joy of going through a record store's used bins and finding something you want," Mr. Forrest says. "That is something many people are truly missing these days."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies