A Millennial Issue


One of the best-known UK hi-fi reviewers has a unique way of scoring products on his online hi-fi magazine. Really great pieces of kit are awarded either a Groovy or Deeply Groovy rating, which is a lovely nod in the direction of good old-fashioned vinyl. Or perhaps that should say the latest and greatest music medium that’s taking the world by storm!

There really is nothing like a resurgence in 100-year-old technology to get the kids going, and this one has definitely grabbed their attention. Yes, you can walk through Trafalgar Square and see a good number of youngsters using old Pentax ME Super cameras, as they rebel against digital, and even the humble Compact Cassette is threatening to make a return (heaven help us!) but it’s the vinyl that’s really come back with a vengeance. 

Music consumption is going through the roof, thanks to the various streaming services that now account for over 50% of total UK music listening (figures from the BPI). And the rise in use of streaming services is simply phenomenal – 51% up in 2017 compared to 2016 resulting in over 68bn streams during the year. That’s a lot of music!

So where do the other formats figure in this virtual world that is lacking in tangibility? The rise in music consumption of around 9.5% for 2017 ‘v’ 2016 is the biggest increase since 2000. It is fuelled largely by streaming, but also by the resilience of physical formats according to the BPI. The CD is still holding its own, at around 31% of the music purchased, but this figure is declining - from 56% in 2012. Vinyl, on the other hand has gone from just 0.3% in 2012 to 3% in 2017 – not big numbers, granted, but in percentage increase terms it’s huge.

There were 4.1m vinyl LPs purchased during 2017, which is a rise of nearly 27% compared to 2016, but the staggering figure is the 1892% increase since 2007. It’s now at its highest level since the early 90s, with 40,000 albums released on vinyl in 2017. Vinyl represents nearly 10% of all physical music purchases. 

Will this help hi-fi sales over the next year, or are most music consumers using inferior quality streamers (e.g. their phones) and turntables (e.g. the £90 special from the supermarket)? We probably all know the answer, but what a great opportunity this presents to educate and get people to buy-up to something decent.

First on the bill at the Clarity Conference this year was the BPI, who shared more details with us about the trends in music consumption. We’ve been building a relationship with the BPI over the past few years, as our worlds are intrinsically linked and intertwined, being that there is a correlation between the sales of vinyl and the sales of turntables. And that brings us nicely on to our friends at GfK. The market data specialists have been plotting a rise in turntable sales that pretty well mirrors the software increases reported by the BPI. Of course, high end turntables will always be niche – most of the purchasers of vinyl wouldn’t even consider spending £000s - but where we have a real opportunity to get the hi-fi word out there is with those early adopters of the £90 specials, that are probably beginning to break now. There’s never been a better time for the hi-fi sector to preach to the vinyl converted. But how to do it? One of the best piece of business advice I was ever given was, “You’ve got to fish where the fish are.” And, as many of these new vinyl purchasers are millennials, that means going online and more specifically using the social media outlets they live their lives through - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the like. These may be somewhat alien to us, but if we want to reach out to our new audience we need to embrace them. As the trade association for the industry, Clarity’s job is to support those working in it and we would be happy to run a course to teach retailers the mechanics of reaching out to the millennials. Drop us a line if you’d like to participate and we’ll make it happen if there’s enough interest. info@clarityalliance.co.uk