While vinyl continues to defy skeptics, critics, and sales projections, there is allot of talk about “The Bubble.” While the term is certainly not unique to the physical music industry, it rarely gets the same prominence as it does when speaking about the vinyl industry. It’s as if there is this looming period of doom coming any minute when sales are going to tank, stores will close, labels will fold, presses will stop and musicians will starve. It’s something we have heard time and time again from those inside and outside of the industry, including label heads and store owners.
Is there a bubble? Of course! There is no denying that. It’s huge! Vinyl sales have had this meteoric rise since 2007 and have not slowed down since. The format not only had a resurgence but a defiant march right back into the mainstream! Vinyl is on track to become a BILLION-dollar industry this year!
Which of course leads us to the next question; when will the bubble pop? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind. If you had asked someone that five years ago, they would have said next week. Ask them last year and they would say it’s overdue. However, here we are, post Record Store Day 2017 and clearly still on the upswing on vinyl sales.
Relax, the sky is not falling and it’s not falling tomorrow. In all likelihood, the vinyl bubble will not pop at all. While growth has been rapid, it has been substantial. Sure, there is a good share of the market that is still clinging on the format for hipster or novelty reasons, and while they may eventually all off, vinyl has survived much darker times. What we hear more and more from those in the industry is that they predict a plateau. One thing everyone ignores while fearing the “pop” is that the resurgence has been driven by young consumers, especially those in the 18-24 bracket. There are plenty of new fans who have “caught the bug” and are now full-scale collectors and lovers of the vinyl format. These are the people who will keep vinyl relevant in the years to come.
The industry needs not to worry about when or if the bubble will pop, but to protect the new consumer base that has been established. Listen to their needs. Address their concerns. Keep prices reasonable and don’t gouge the shit out of them on price when the market settles. The physical music industry learned just how quickly the market will turn on them when they try to make up lost profits by ripping off those who seek out physical music. The CD rise and fall is a textbook example of this.
We are heading into the next great vinyl generation, powered by young fans whose parents likely never owned a turntable. New stores are opening, vinyl presses are backlogged and new pressing plants are opening to fill the need.
It’s time to stop worrying about “the bubble” and start enjoying the ride. Not because it might end, but because we are on the forefront of a musical revolution nobody saw coming.