Okay, we know that it's not the vinyl packaging that's surpassing digital downloads in some music markets. But it might play some part in the disruption happening in the music market, specifically in the United Kingdom.
Britain's Entertainment Retail Association released numbers earlier this week showing that records are selling at higher rates than digital downloads. It's the first time this has happened in history. In a world where technology advances quickly, and the music industry has struggled to adapt to various changes, it's interesting to see an album format invented over 50 years ago outselling other models in 2016. Vinyl has been on pace to increase dramatically, particularly in recent years, across Europe and the United States. In the United States, vinyl has been increasing by around 10% per year. Today, it's roughly 6% of the album industry, or just over $2.5 million. Streaming, in comparison, accounts for more than a billion. So chances are we won't be seeing any similar toppling in the United States soon.
But what is drawing people to vinyl in this day and age?
Vinyl Packaging and Tech Disruption
As retailers make more space on shelves for vinyl, and events like Record Store Day gain popularity, it's impossible to escape the magnitude of vinyl. The popularity of vinyl has occurred with the rise of other pieces of retro technology, like Polaroid cameras and different elements in fashion. The digital age as transformed nearly every industry in existence, from travel to film to, of course, music.
This return to an earlier age of technology is tied in part to nostalgia. Even though vinyl's most avid proponents might not have been alive in the golden age of records, they're certainly making up for it with enthusiasm now. Everything old is new again. The sound of that record needle, and the hisses and other flaws embedded into the fragile plastic of a record, speak to newer generations who aren't interested in the gloss and sheen applied by the industry. It's seen as fake, or over-produced. Flaws equal authenticity.
Vinyl packaging enters the equation here. People like holding something tangible in a digital world. Record stores are social (as any fan of 'High Fidelity' can tell you) and get people to interact with each other, and without the barrier presented by a smartphone or tablet. Artists use vinyl packaging to communicate with their fans. The Beatles were masters of this; their album covers are iconic (everyone know the smorgasbord of celebrities on the Sergeant Pepper album, or the Fab Four crossing Abbey Road). It's another platform that sets the tone for an album. A picture is worth a thousand more; music is countless more.
Packaging for the Ages
Vinyl is one example of how iconic packaging can become in the right sense. As record sales grow (including toppling digital in the UK), the reasons behind its increase become stronger as well. People are searching for something tangible and memorable. Is your packaging meeting that need?