As music industry declines, vinyl LPs get another turn

Everywhere you turn, traditional media are dying.

Yet against all odds, a cumbersome, fussy and pricey method of consuming recorded music isn’t just surviving — it's thriving.

Vinyl LPs, as has been breathlessly touted for months, are surprisingly resurgent in the midst of this analog twilight and the ascent of portable, digital technology.

Looking at the most complete sales data available (for 2008), the sales of vinyl LPs jumped an eye-popping 89 percent, from 990,000 units sold to 1.88 million units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan’s year-end report.

The top-selling LP of 2008? Radiohead's "In Rainbows," which moved a little over 25,000 copies. Nothing to sneeze at, but by comparison, the top-selling nonvinyl album of the year, Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III," moved nearly 3 million copies.

LPs were just a fraction of the year's total music sales (less than 1 percent overall), but they nevertheless offer a flicker of hope — or a brief delay of the inevitable — for an industry that has seen nothing but bad news for years. Indeed, according to Nielsen SoundScan, vinyl LP sales are on course to top out at a record-setting 2.8 million units sold in 2009, a 50 percent increase from 2008’s total.

"People are truly embracing the warmth of the sound," says Chris Penn, manager of Dallas' Good Records. "It's becoming a 'Saturday night, I’m going to listen to records (thing).' It's kind of an event — that’s what I'm excited about. (The format) has a little more longevity with that kind of listening."

Vinyl may be enjoying a resurgence, but most record stores point out that the format never completely died. Customers simply were more taken with the cutting-edge formats like CD and MP3.

"Everything kind of goes around — no pun intended," said Record Town owner Sumter Bruton. "A lot of people never stopped buying albums."


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