Vinyl album sales continue to be a bright spot among an otherwise bleak album sales picture. 16.8 million vinyl albums were sold in 2018, according to Nielsen Music (up 14.6 percent) — marking the 13th consecutive year of growth for the format. 16.8 million is also a new yearly high for vinyl album sales since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991.
Comparatively, overall album sales (vinyl LP, CD, digital, cassette, etc.) in 2018 fell 17.7 percent to 141 million.
Vinyl LP sales accounted for 11.9 percent of all album sales in 2018 (16.8 million of 141 million). In 2017, the format comprised 6.5 percent of album sales.
Nielsen Music’s 2018 tracking year ran from Dec. 29, 2017 through Jan. 3, 2019. Due to a quirk in the calendar, there were 53 weeks in 2018, instead of the usual 52. So, for 2018 volume comparisons to 2017, a corresponding 53-week period is used by Nielsen Music for 2017: Dec. 30, 2016 through Jan. 4, 2018. Numbers in this story are rounded.
Perhaps not surprisingly, vinyl LPs were 19.1 percent of all physical album sales (CDs, LPs, cassettes, etc.) in 2018. That’s a new Nielsen-era record share for the once-dormant format, up from 14 percent in 2017.
Vinyl’s growing share of the physical album market isn’t shocking, considering CD album sales continue to falter.
In total, physical album sales equaled 88 million in 2018, down 15.8 percent. And of that sum, CD album sales were 70.7 million — down 20.9 percent.
The CD format continues to be the leader for all album purchases, while the digital format is the runner-up with 53.4 million digital albums sold in 2018 (down 20.7 percent).
TOP-SELLING VINYL ARTISTS: The top-selling vinyl albums artist in 2018 was the Beatles, with 321,000 copies sold of their catalog on vinyl. Their biggest seller was Abbey Road, which finishes the year as the No. 4 largest-seller, with 76,000 copies. The Fab Four also have two more titles among the year’s top 15-sellers: their self-titled (White Album) is No. 11 (56,000) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is No. 13 (50,000).The top 10-biggest selling vinyl acts of the year are rounded out mostly by classic and veteran rock acts: Pink Floyd (177,000), David Bowie (150,000), Panic! at the Disco (148,000), Fleetwood Mac (139,000), Led Zeppelin (138,000), Michael Jackson (131,000), Jimi Hendrix (119,000), Metallica (116,000) and Queen (113,000).
‘GUARDIANS’ LEAD THE PACK, AGAIN: The top-selling vinyl album of 2018 is the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack, with 84,000 copies sold. (See top 10 sellers list, below.) The top five sellers of the year are rounded out by four classic Billboard 200 chart-topping albums: Michael Jackson’s Thriller (nearly 84,000), Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (77,000), the Beatles’ Abbey Road (76,000) and Prince and the Revolution’s soundtrack to Purple Rain (71,000).Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 has been a consistent seller on vinyl, as 11 percent of the set’s total sales (244,000 of 2.29 million) have come via vinyl LP. The album was released in July of 2014, and its vinyl edition was issued in September of that year.Other hot-selling vinyl albums in 2018 included more recent releases, like Khalid’s American Teen (55,000), the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman(50,000), Jack White’s Boarding House Reach (42,000) and Twenty One Pilots’ Trench (40,000).Overall in 2018, 14 albums sold more than 50,000 copies on vinyl — up from just eight titles in 2017. Further, 79 titles exceeded 20,000 in LP sales in 2018, as compared to 77 in 2017 and 58 in 2016.
TOP 10 SELLING VINYL ALBUMS OF 2018 IN U.S. 01 Soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (84,000)
02 Michael Jackson, Thriller (84,000)
03 Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (77,000)
04 The Beatles, Abbey Road (76,000)
05 Prince and The Revolution, Purple Rain Soundtrack (71,000)
06 Pink Floyd, The Dark Side Of The Moon (67,000)
07 Bob Marley and The Wailers, Legend: The Best Of… (61,000)
08 Queen, Greatest Hits (60,000)
09 Amy Winehouse, Back To Black (59,000)
10 Panic! at the Disco, Pray For The Wicked (59,000)
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 29, 2017 through Jan. 3, 2019. (Titles listed with the same sales total are not tied, as their exact sales are rounded to the nearest thousand.)RECORD WEEK FOR VINYL ALBUM SALES: 905,000 vinyl albums were sold in the week ending Dec. 27, 2018, the largest week for the format since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991. That sum actually beats out a record that was only set a week earlier, when 880,000 vinyl LPs were sold in the frame ending Dec. 20. (Before 2018, the largest week was registered in the week ending Dec. 21, 2017, with 811,000 vinyl albums sold.)
ROCK AROUND THE VINYL CLOCK: Rock music is tops among vinyl album buyers, as the genre comprises the largest share of vinyl LP sales: 63 percent. In 2017, the genre amounted to 67 percent of LP sales, while in 2016 rock yielded 69 percent of LP sales.Sales of older albums continue to drive the bulk of all vinyl LP sales, as deep catalog titles held a 65 percent share of vinyl album sales in 2018. (Deep catalog albums are defined as those that are at least 36 months old.) The only title among 2018’s top 10-selling vinyl albums that is not a deep catalog title is Panic! at the Disco’s Pray For The Wicked (No. 10 with 59,000), which was released in June of 2018.
INDIE STORES LOVE VINYL, TARGET GETS INTO THE GROOVE: In total, of the 16.8 million vinyl albums sold in 2018, 41.1 percent of them — the largest share of the market — were sold via independent music stores (6.9 million).That’s not surprising, considering so many unique vinyl products are created for Record Store Day and Record Store Day Black Friday each year. Those annual indie music retailer celebrations offer a slate of exclusive and limited-edition vinyl albums and singles, generally only found in indie stores.Indie stores’ 6.9 million vinyl album sales were up 15 percent as compared to their sales in 2017 (6 million).Coming in a close second for market share was Nielsen Music’s grouping of Internet/Mail Order/Venue sellers, which collectively tallied 40.9 percent of vinyl album sales (6.89 million). Internet sellers include Amazon.com.In a distant third were chain stores (1.76 million; 10.5 percent), followed by mass merchants (661,000; 3.9 percent) and lastly non-traditional retail outlets (608,000; 3.6 percent).Mass merchants had a big spike in vinyl LP sales in 2018 — growing 611 percent over 2017 (93,000). The growth is likely owed to mass merchants like Target devoting more space in their stores to vinyl albums, and procuring exclusive variants of releases. Among the unique titles only available at Target: a translucent blue vinyl version of Khalid’s American Teen, a translucent orange edition of Justin Timberlake’s Man Of The Woods and a gold version of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Legend.
SINGLES ACTION: In terms of vinyl singles, while it’s a smaller market as compared to that of full-length vinyl albums, there were still some pretty notable vinyl singles with significant sales in 2018.The top-selling vinyl single of 2018 is the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” 7-inch picture disc, with 10,000 copies sold. (See top 10 list, below.) The title was released on July 6, 2018, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the single and its parent film of the same name. The new picture disc’s B-side is “Eleanor Rigby,” just as it was for the original 7-inch plain black vinyl single release in 1968.The No. 2-biggest-selling vinyl single of 2018 was Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” on 7-inch vinyl (9,000). The single, containing Prince’s original studio version of the track, along with an edited version of the tune, was released widely on May 25, 2018.Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” 7-inch yellow vinyl single, with “Friends” as its B-side, comes in at No. 3 on the top sellers list. The product, with previously unheard mixes of the tracks, was released for Record Store Day on April 21. (Many of the year’s top sellers were associated with Record Store Day, or Record Store Day Black Friday initiatives.)Rounding out the top 10 selling vinyl singles: John Williams’ “The Rebellion Is Reborn,” backed with “Canto Bight,” from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The 10-inch single was pressed on a Porg-shaped picture disc. It was the 10th-largest seller of the year.Outside of the top 10, there were a range of notable titles that performed well. Among them: Weezer’s “Africa” pressed on a 10-inch picture disc in the shape of Africa (3,000 sold), Sufjan Stevens’ three-song 10-inch clear transparent release containing his contributions to the Call Me by Your Name soundtrack (2,000) and Cheech & Chong’s 40th anniversary release of “Up in Smoke” on a 7-inch picture disc in the shape of a marijuana leaf, and packaged with a scratch-and-sniff sticker (2,000).
TOP 10 SELLING VINYL SINGLES OF 2018 IN U.S.
01 The Beatles, “Yellow Submarine” (10,000)
02 Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U” (9,000)
03 Led Zeppelin, “Rock and Roll”/”Friends” (8,000)
04 Sleep, “Leagues Beneath” (5,000)
05 Chris Cornell, “When Bad Does Good” (4,000)
06 David Bowie, “Let’s Dance” (Full Length Demo) (4,000)
07 Paul McCartney, “I Don’t Know”/”Come On To Me” (4,000)
08 U2, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” (3,000)
09 The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” (3,000)
10 John Williams, “The Rebellion Is Reborn” (3,000)
Source: Nielsen Music, for the tracking period Dec. 29, 2017 through Jan. 3, 2019. (Titles listed with the same sales total are not tied, as their exact sales are rounded to the nearest thousand.)
This article originally appeared on Billboard.