Over the past few years, vinyl records have made a huge comeback among those who experienced the vinyl era firsthand, but also among generations that grew up with CDs and digital music. This unexpected boom even managed to resist the pandemic and vinyl sales increased by 10.2% in France in 2020 according to the annual report from the Snep (Syndicat national de l’édition phonographique, or National Syndicate of Phonographic Publishing. Editor’s note). To contextualize this increase in sales, CDs saw a decrease of 27.1% over the same period and the same market. All this at a time when digital music reigns supreme and after a year marked by the closure of retail outlets during the first lockdowns, record stores having been recognized as “essential businesses” along with book stores in France.
However, this enthusiasm for records could be curbed by a joint agreement between the three major record labels. Universal, Warner and Sony have made the decision to increase the price of vinyl records dramatically. This decision could well have repercussions for the entire market, especially for smaller structures such as independent labels and record stores that will have to adapt to continue to exist within this industry.
We may therefore experience a price increase of 100% or more for future productions as well as for albums released several decades ago. This is what GREDIN, the professional union of French independent record stores, presents in a press release dated June 22, 2021:
“Excluding taxes, prices have increased between €0.50 and €19 depending on the reference. Without going into too many accounting details, let’s use an example to understand what we are dealing with:
Yesterday, for the single LP of Téléphone’s Dure Limite sold by Warner to record shops at €12.49 before tax, the public price was about €21.30 including tax. […] Warner’s new price for the same album is now €30.05 before tax, thus tipping the public selling price to about € 51 including VAT. […] It seems unlikely that the record company still needs to make a profit on this album, which was released in 1982 and sold over 400,000 copies.”
The labels in question cite the cost of raw materials to justify this increase. The price of the polymer has been steadily increasing since 2015. The difference in cost would therefore be carried over to the final product and would be the source of this sudden increase in the cost of vinyl. However, Gredin points out several discrepancies, such as the fact that the price change differs from one record to another and can vary from €1.66 to €16.
This increase is expected to take place in October 2021 in France. However, it has already happened in the United States and the United Kingdom. Will the vinyl market, after having revived physical music media in the face of the increasing popularity of streaming services, be able to survive these soaring prices?