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What If Free Streaming Is Causing the Vinyl Boom?

We know that the music industry has been experiencing a resurgence in vinyl LP sales. That’s been a strange, unexpected phenomenon for roughly a decade. In fact, sales in vinyl recently reached their highest level since 1988, and thanks to a recent ICM poll, we also know that free streaming is helping to drive those sales.

The poll found that music fans are using platforms like YouTube, Soundcloud and ad-supported tiers on services like Spotify to sample music before they decide if they want to invest in a physical purchase. The study found that the most frequent vinyl buyer is a free-access streamer, a discovery that suggests that free music has the ability to ‘drive real-world sales’.

Now, thanks to data from BuzzAngle, we know exactly how much vinyl sales have increased. According to BuzzAngle’s mid-year report, vinyl LP sales in the US between the first six months in 2015 to the first six months in 2016 have experienced a 17% increase.

Overall album sales dropped from over 100 million in the first six months of 2015, to just over 86 million in the first six months of 2016. That’s a 14% decline, with a 17% decrease in digital album sales, and an 11% decline in CD sales factoring into the drop.

That may be part of an entirely new exposure-to-purchase pathway, one that leaves digital downloads in the dust, puts CDs on the periphery, and hoists LPs to a brand new renaissance. Maybe free streaming isn’t so bad, after all.

Overall, vinyl LP sales have grown from 2.6 million units in the first six months of 2015, to over 3 million in the first six months of 2016.