If you ask anyone involved in what remains of the traditional music industry, they’ll tell you that their entire sector is experiencing one of the slowest deaths in the history of capitalism. Since its inception the industry controlled the recording and distribution of music across the world, an oligopoly that more or less continued uninterrupted until the advent of the internet. Before the explosion of the world wide web, artists had little say with regard to creative control and the direction of their own careers – at least the ones doing business with the major labels that had little bargaining power. Established artists could throw their weight around, but for the longest time the name of the game was just getting your foot in the door of one of the big labels and kissing ass while hoping your record did well.
The internet took that power of distribution away from the labels and placed it in the hands of the artists themselves. They were free to bypass the traditional industry framework and communicate directly with their fans. This technology also gave us the advent of digital piracy, the ability to download music for free, something that the generation of people who grew up with the internet abuse mercilessly. Most millennials see nothing morally wrong with illegally downloading an album, despite the fact that it is legally theft and is punishable by massive fines and sometimes jail time. Since then the music industry has been in full scramble mode, running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to find new sources of revenue in a changing world.
One new source of revenue might not come from the future – like music subscription services such as Songza and Pandora – but rather from the past. Vinyl records have been the hottest commodity in the music business over the past few years, and they’re beginning to mount a serious and long-term comeback. That’s right, vinyl. Those old school wax discs are in the middle of a full resurrection thanks to hipsters and diehard music fans who long for an era gone by. Some of those vinyl releases of new albums have been selling quite well, notably these ones.
#10 St. Vincent – 11,400 copies
St. Vincent (born Anne Erin Clark) is an American musician whose work is hard to categorize, to say the least. A multi-instrumentalist, St. Vincent plays the piano, guitar, bass and the theremin (don’t worry, I had to google it too). Described as ‘mysterious’, even by people who have toured with her for months at a time, her music reflects that ethereal presence. Her fifth and self-titled album St. Vincent, was released in February 2014 under Loma Vista Recordings. The limited edition vinyl release of the album sold 11,400 copies, which isn’t bad at all for a physical medium that was considered completely dead in the water 20 years ago.
#9 Mac DeMarco – Salad Days – 11,900 copies
Canadian artist Mac DeMarco made waves in 2014 with his sophomore album Salad Days, which was released on April 1st, 2014. Originally from the Canadian West Coast of British Columbia, DeMarco moved to Montreal in 2011 – where he recorded and released his first album- and then moved to Brooklyn, New York to live and record his second release Salad Days. His new album was met with critical acclaim and has been shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, the highest honour in Canadian music. His lo-fi, mildly psychedelic slacker rock has acquired him a ton of fans recently, and there seems to be great things on the horizon for the 24-year-old. Salad Days sold 11,900 copies on vinyl alone.
#8 Lorde – Pure Heroine – 12,400 copies
The breakout star of 2013 carried that momentum into 2014, selling 12,400 vinyl copies of her debut album Pure Heroine. 17-year-old singer/songwriter Lorde (real name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) wrote and performed the international smash hit “Royals”, which peaked on charts all over the world. If you don’t know the chorus by now, let me be the first to congratulate you on your hibernation. Unlike many of the other artists on this list whose fans may be more inclined to purchase the vinyl (read: hipster music), Lorde has serious mainstream appeal. The 12,400 vinyl sales are simply a testament to her massive popularity. As of June 2014, Pure Heroine has sold 2.47 million copies worldwide.
#7 Beatles – Abbey Road – 12,600
The album that has been the bane of the existence of all the poor Englishmen living on Abbey Road in the UK (tourists bring traffic to a halt every day trying to recreate the famous cover) made a comeback in 2014. The 11th studio album by The Beatles, first released in 1969, sold 12,600 vinyl copies in 2014, proving that the Beatles make truly timeless music. Abbey Road and the inevitable vinyl re-releases of previously recorded Beatles albums will undoubtedly continue to sell well as aging boomers buy them to relive their youth and young fans buy them to experience a more authentic version of those classic albums.
#6 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Legend – 13,000
Another classic album from a timeless artist proves that music fans who opt for vinyl have specific, special albums in mind when they make a purchase. Legend is a compilation album by Bob Marley & The Wailers that was released in 1984, 3 years after Bob Marley’s death in 1981. Legend collected his greatest work, and has since been regarded as one of the best compilation albums of all time. There has been 25 million copies of the albums sold worldwide since its release, and 13,000 copies of the vinyl edition thus far in 2014.
#5 Lana Del Rey – Born To Die – 16,500
Released in 2012, Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die has surprisingly continued to sell quite well – particularly on vinyl. Del Rey’s work has been polarizing, with some critics praising her work as strong pop songwriting and others labelling it as hipster pop trash. Wherever you stand, it seems that she has a dedicated fan base that’s buying up her albums, meaning she’ll be around for the foreseeable future. Born To Die has sold 7 million copies worldwide since its release and 16,500 on vinyl in 2014 alone.
#4 The Black Keys – Turn Blue – 21,000
The band that at times has been singlehandedly carrying the torch for American blues-rock sold 21,000 vinyl copies of their new album Turn Blue in 2014. Produced by longtime collaborator Danger Mouse, Turn Blue was another stellar entry into the already world class discography of The Black Keys. The band kept the album a secret until its announcement in March, and released it in early May 2014. Although slower and a little more melancholy than its predecessor El Camino, Turn Blue maintained the signature elements of the Black Keys’ sound while moving it in a new and exciting direction.
#3 Beck – Morning Phase – 21,300
Ever-present alternative 90s wonder kid Beck released another album in 2014 that went relatively under the radar compared to the press he used to generate in his heyday. Regardless, Morning Phase was another solid addition to his body of work, and was produced specifically as a companion record to his 2002 album Sea of Change. Released under Beck’s own label, Capitol Records, Morning Phase has sold 21,300 copies thus far in 2014. The fact that Beck’s diehard fans opt for the vinyl release of his album comes as a surprise to no one.
#2 Arctic Monkeys – AM – 25,100
Although most British bands who are dubbed as ‘The New Beatles’ early in their careers self-destruct soon after (I’m looking at you, Oasis), the Arctic Monkeys have managed to shed that label and mature into a musical force of their own since their debut album in 2006. Their 2014 release AM was their most ambitious record thus far, as it was the furthest departure away from their original sound. Fortunately for them, the singles “Do I Wanna Know” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” were smash hits. The album sold 25,100 copies of the vinyl in the first 7 months of 2014.
#1 Jack White – Lazaretto – 49,100
Jack White first rose to fame as one half of The White Stripes, but since their breakup he’s kept busy and has been building a stellar solo career of his own (not to mention his work with The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, but that’s another story). Lazaretto has sold a staggering 49,100 copies of its vinyl release – and its only been available for a little under 2 months. In fact, Lazaretto broke the record for first week vinyl sales since SoundScan began tracking sales in the early 90s, making it the hottest vinyl album in decades. What was all the hype about? The vinyl release had nifty bells and whistles like locked grooves on the outside of the album that would create an infinite loop at the end of the last track, two secret songs hidden underneath the label of the vinyl, and a floating angel hologram that would appear when the album was being played. Seriously. It’s probably the most intricate vinyl LP ever released, so fans were clamouring to get a copy when it came out. Given its success, expect future artists to release special vinyl versions of their new albums in the immediate future.