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Wax Off, Wax On: Vinyl Continued its Sales Comeback in 2012

Jack White's "Blunderbuss" was the top-selling vinyl record of 2012.

Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” was the top-selling vinyl record of 2012.

If I could go back to the mid-1990s and invest in one thing, it would be a vinyl record processing plant. Well, I’d probably pick up a bunch of Apple shares first, but after that it would be all about vinyl, which continued its remarkable comeback in 2012.

Last year was the U.S. vinyl market’s fifth consecutive record-breaker, topping 2011’s sales of 3.9 million records with a total of 4.6 million copies sold, a healthy 7% increase. Even more promising for the long-term viability of every collector’s favorite format, according to numbers revealed in Nielsen & Billboard‘s 2012 Music Industry Report, is that two-thirds of all vinyl was sold by independent music retailers.

To be fair, I’ve never stepped foot into a Best Buy with the intention of buying a record, but it pleases me to know that other music fans haven’t forgotten about their neighborhood record store.

Once the smaller and sturdier compact disc unseated vinyl as the music buying public’s favorite listening format at the end of the ‘80s, the major record labels were all too ready to lower vinyl into the ground in a KISS casket. Only the highest profile albums were granted vinyl releases by labels like Warner Brothers and Geffen, but indie labels kept the records spinning until the suits realized music fans craved more wax for their ears.

Now, major and indie labels are both moving significant quantities of vinyl. Jack White’s Blunderbuss (released by his own Third Man, in conjunction with Columbia) topped the 2012 U.S. best-selling vinyl list, beating out the Beatles’ Abbey Road, which is still an unstoppable force, even after 44 years. Underground favorites like Beach House’s Bloom and Alabama Shakes’ Boys & Girls also popped up in the top 10.

I’m calling it now: historians will remember 2025 as “The Year of the Cassette.”


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