UK vinyl sales at the highest level since 1990

By Daniel ThomasBusiness reporter

Getty Images Taylor Swift on tourGetty Images
Taylor Swift has three albums in the UK’s best selling vinyl this year

UK sales of vinyl LPs have hit their highest level since 1990 as the revival of the physical music market continues.

Sales rose by 11.7% to 5.9 million units, increasing for the 16th year in a row, according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) trade group.

Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was the best-selling LP, followed by the Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds.

Cassette sales also did well, topping 100,000 for a fourth consecutive year.

While more than four-fifths of recorded music is consumed via streaming, vinyl has made a huge comeback, with fans seeing it as more collectible and having better sound quality.

The BPI, the trade body for the UK music industry, said the popularity of independent record stores and the rebirth of specialist music chain HMV had also helped.

HMV, which stands for His Master’s Voice, re-opened its flagship shop on London’s Oxford Street in November after a four-year hiatus.

New releases dominated the list of best-selling vinyl albums, with Ed Sheeran, Lewis Capaldi and Lana Del Rey also in the top 10.

However, classic albums and reissues were also among the top performers, including Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Pink Floyd’s the Dark Side of the Moon (Live At Wembley 1974).

Taylor Swift has three albums in the UK’s top 10 best-selling long-players this year – 1989, Speak Now and Midnights.

Speak Now and 1989 are both re-recordings and are part of an ongoing campaign to regain control of her work, after an investment company bought her master tapes in 2019.

Last year, she told the BBC’s Graham Norton Show: “I’ve been recording my first six albums because there was a thing that happened where I had wanted to own my work of my first six albums when I changed record labels.

“My first six albums were actually sold away from me and so I decided, I just figured if I made them the first time I can make them again.”

‘Richer sound’

Avid vinyl fan Andy Smithson, 56, still has his 1979 Technics player, which he says remains “in perfect condition”. Mr Smithson says he is drawn by what he terms the “visual aspect” of records.

Kevin Shoesmith/BBC Andy Smithson is drawn by the Kevin Shoesmith/BBC
Andy Smithson says he is drawn by the “visual aspect” of vinyl

“If the music is rubbish, you’re still left with a good piece of artwork,” he says, sifting through a rack of 45s in Hull’s Trinity Market. “There’s nothing quite like a record in terms of quality. It’s a richer sound. Downloads just do not have the same appeal.”

Top 10 best-selling vinyl albums 2023

The BPI said cassette sales were also picking up again after dying out in early 1990s, while the decline in CD sales had begun to slowdown, “plateauing” at most 11 million units in 2023.

Take That’s This Life is the year’s top selling CD, while Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts was the best performing cassette.

Back in 1990, …But Seriously by Phil Collins was the best-selling album followed by The Immaculate Collection by Madonna.

A live album by the three tenors – José Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti – was the third biggest album followed by The Very Best of Elton John then Soul Provider by Michael Bolton.

Commenting on this year, BPI boss Dr Jo Twist said: “Led by vinyl, the resurgence of physical product underlines the resilience of the UK music market at a time when streaming consumption continues to hit record levels.

“Whilst LP sales have now been on an upward path for the past 16 years, it is encouraging to see a stabilisation in demand for CD, as well as new generations of music fans falling in love with the cassette. It is giving people more choice than ever in how they enjoy their favourite music.”

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