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UK vinyl sales grew 10% while cassette sales doubled in 2020

By | Published on Tuesday 29 December 2020

Record store

Despite the high street being in shutdown for some of the year, UK vinyl sales continued to grow in 2020.

In fact, record label trade body BPI estimates that total vinyl sales for the year will be a tenth bigger than in 2019, with 4.8 million units shifted. And while 80% of music consumption is now streams, those stats demonstrate that, for some artists and labels, vinyl remains an important extra revenue stream.

Vinyl sales did initially dip during the first COVID lockdown earlier in the year, but started to recover over the summer months. Mail-order will have played a role in all that too, with some independent retailers offering home deliveries for the first time once COVID restrictions were in place.

There were also various initiatives encouraging people to support their local record stores during the COVID pandemic, of course, which likely resulted in a boost for the vinyl format.

Those included the likes of the #loverecordstores initiative and Tim Burgess’s Twitter Online Listening Parties, as well as the existing National Album Day and the extra activities organised by the Record Store Day team.

The BPI’s figures, based on Official Charts Company data, also include sales via most of the direct-to-fan platforms used by artists and labels. Direct-to-fan activity also saw a boost during COVID, partly because fans were looking to support their favourites artists, and partly because some artists and labels became more proactive in that domain during shutdown.

With direct-to-fan in particular, there is also a trend of fans buying physical releases as merchandise. Which is to say, they’ll mainly stream the music, but like to buy something physical to accompany a favourite release. That’s a trend that could be behind another format revival confirmed by the BPI’s stats, the good old cassette revival.

And while – like with the early days of the vinyl revival – it’s easy to exaggerate that particular trend, it looks likely that cassette sales will have doubled during 2020, with 157,000 units sold. Like vinyl, cassettes have a certain retro value for those seeking physical releases as merch, and they are also a lot cheaper to manufacture.

Commenting on all these figures, BPI boss Geoff Taylor says: “In a year when all our lives have changed, music’s power to inspire has never been more evident. The immediacy and convenience of streaming make it the go-to audio format for most of our listening, but more and more fans choose to get closer to their favourite artists and albums on vinyl”.

“It’s remarkable that [vinyl] and audio tape sales should have risen at all given the challenges we’ve all faced”, he adds. “The surge in sales despite retail closures demonstrates the timeless appeal of collectable physical formats alongside the seamless connectivity of streaming”.

The final year-end OCC figures are still being counted – with one last chart week still to be completed – but the BPI has put together predicted top tens for vinyl and cassette sales in 2020. With vinyl, big catalogue releases are still key alongside certain newer titles, whereas with cassettes its all new albums – although that’s probably mainly down to availability.

The ten best-selling vinyl albums of 2020 are likely to be…
1. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
2. Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?
3. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
4. Nirvana – Nevermind
5. Harry Styles – Fine Line
6. Kylie Minogue – Disco
7. AC/DC – Power Up
8. Queen – Greatest Hits
9. Idles – Ultra Mono
10. Arctic Monkeys – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

And the ten best-selling cassette albums of 2020 are likely to be…
1. Lady Gaga – Chromatica
2. 5 Seconds Of Summer – Calm
3. Yungblud – Weird
4. The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form
5. Blackpink – The Album
6. Selena Gomez – Rare
7. Kylie Minogue – Disco
8. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
9. Haim – Women In Music Pt III
10. The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive