When 2011′s year-end music sales were posted last week, much was made about the surge in vinyl sales, which were up nearly 40 percent from the year prior.
And while yes, sales were indeed up, the raw numbers are much less thrilling.
In 2011, 3.9 million vinyl albums were sold, up from 2.8 in 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That represents around 1 percent of all album sales in 2011.
Last year, some 330 million albums were sold in the U.S., including 223.5 million CDs and 103.1 million digital albums. Those 3.9 million vinyl albums are just a drop in a very large bucket, and are not likely to save the music industry anytime soon.
The year’s No. 1 selling vinyl album was not Adele or any up-and-comer, but the Beatles’ 42-year-old “Abbey Road.” To earn that title it sold 41,000 copies over the course of the year, or less than a third of what Adele’s “21″ sold last week. And vinyl remains an extremely niche market, its appeal limited to a particular sect of the music-buying market, if the list of the year’s top vinyl artists — Radiohead, Black Keys, Bon Iver, Beatles and Fleet Foxes — means anything.
I love vinyl as much as the next guy — maybe more? — but the stories about how it’s going to save the biz are pretty far-flung. Everyone just take a nap.
Top 10 vinyl albums of 2011, according to Nielsen Soundscan (units sold in parentheses)
1. The Beatles, Abbey Road (41,000)
2. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (29,700)
3. Bon Iver, Bon Iver (27,200)
4. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More (26,800)
5. Radiohead, King of Limbs (20,800)
6. Adele, 21 (16,500)
7. Bon Iver, For Emma Forever Ago (16,200)
8. Wilco, Whole Love (14,900)
9. Black Keys, Brothers (14,200)
10. Black Keys, El Camino (13,800)