As we head into 2023, many aspects of modern life are not that far removed from the 1980s. 

Just as it did in 1980, the UK has recently entered a recession. As you read this, the UK’s number one song is a version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, which first topped the nation’s charts in 1984. You can still watch new episodes of the Simpsons, which made its debut in 1987.

It was in 1987 that vinyl revenue last eclipsed that of CDs, but Taylor Swift has a resurgence that now sees compact discs trailing for the first time in 35 years. 

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With 11 Grammy awards to her name, Swift is one of the world’s most successful musicians. Her every release is a major event, instantly generating an avalanche of memes, think pieces and sales. 

While the 33-year-old is streaming service Spotify’s fifth most popular artist, physical sales of her music are having a significant impact on the industry.

Isn’t streaming the most popular method of consuming music?

It is, but many among the American singer-songwriter’s army of ‘Swifties’ have been willing to purchase her music on vinyl. 

October saw the release of Midnights, Swift’s 10th studio album, which went on to achieve 61,948 UK vinyl sales in its first week alone. That number was higher than the total vinyl sales of Harry’s House by Harry Styles, which had been in shops for five months. 

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What has it meant for the industry?

Major releases from the likes of Abba, Adele and Ed Sheeran saw UK vinyl sales reach a 30-year peak of over five million in 2021, and the 800,000 copies of Midnights sold in Britain have pushed that to around 5.5 million in 2022. 

While more albums are purchased on CD, with over 14 million sold in the UK last year, the superior quality and increased production costs associated with vinyl mean records are significantly more expensive than compact discs, and their sales have generated more income than those of CDs for the first time since 1987. 

What’s behind the popularity of vinyl?

In February, Sony Music UK VP of market planning and sales Charles Wood said vinyl is “being purchased by a broader audience, beyond your music fanatics and niche format obsessives.

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“When you take into consideration a significantly higher price point for vinyl, we will soon see vinyl become the largest physical format in the market in terms of revenue.”

And he was right?

It looks like a new dawn for music’s most enduring format, thanks in no small part to Midnights.