Aside from cassette-tape weirdos, the elderly, and the ironic CD collectors we assume are coming in the next five years or so, vinyl collectors are the only people buying physical copies of music anymore. Rolling Stone reports that vinyl sales jumped 52 percent last year, and vinyl sales have grown from 1.5 percent of overall music sales in 2012 to 6 percent in 2014. (Meanwhile, CD sales continued their free fall, dropping another 15 percent in 2014. Digital music sales also dropped 12.5 percent in 2014, their first decline in a decade.)
Still, major-label record executives, a group of people who historically have never been wrong about anything, still see vinyl collecting as a passing fad. “It is a small percentage of our business. It’s not going to make or break our year,” says RCA Records president Tom Corson. “I know a lot of people in the business who’ve gotten back into vinyl the last couple years. But I’m not sure they’re playing their vinyl every single day like they’re listening on their device,” adds Candace Berry, general manager of Universal Music Distribution.
Perhaps surprisingly, this sentiment is also apparently shared by some indie labels whose business depends on appealing to vinyl-collector types. “It’s always going to be a niche….Not to be negative about it, but I feel like it’s going to peak, if it hasn’t already,” says Saddle Creek Records co-founder Robb Nansel, who also runs a vinyl-only record store. Of course, for the true snob, the niche factor is an intrinsic part of the appeal. Just ask the cassette people.