Luckily for musicians and music business people, the amount of music people consume is up! In fact, according to the IFPI, the recorded music market grew by 8.1% in 2017, which was the third consecutive year of global growth. That said, it should come as no surprise that how people are consuming music is dramatically changing and has a profound effect on how musicians should market their new releases, where and how they should be driving their fans’ attention, and of course, whether or not it makes sense to press physical product in the form of CDs and/or vinyl.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), streaming platforms accounted 65% of the total U.S. music industry revenues in 2017 and streaming contributed to most of the industry growth. They also report that physical sales accounted for 17% of the revenue, digital downloads accounted for 15% and synchronization licensing accounted for 3%. The IFPI reported that in spite of an overall downward trend in physical sales, vinyl sales are up over 22.3%. By way of comparison, there are a few sources, particularly those that cater to the sale of indie music, that are actually reporting that CD sales are up. Bandcamp, for example, reported an 18% increase in CD sales in 2017 from the previous year.
While it is interesting and somewhat helpful to keep these numbers in mind, it’s also important not to base your decisions purely on numbers that reflect national or global trends. Geography, genre, the age, and income of your fan base, percentage of super fans and the type of artist you are (touring vs. studio etc.), can all factor in to whether or not there’s value to spending time and money on pressing up CDs or vinyl. While our company only has a small amount of data to go on, we have found that with our clients the most significant factors in determining whether or not to manufacture physical product are the age of an artist’s fanbase and the number of super fans they have.
We have found that clients both big and small are selling the most physical product through album signings or other “in-person” environments. One good indicator of interest in physical product, aside from simply asking someone if they want it, is whether or not anyone is actually asking you to sign your merch at the merch table after a show. While we find that many super fans don’t have CD players or turntables, they still want something in their hand, something physical to take away from their experience. People still want something to take home that can be signed without the signature coming out in the wash. If you are fortunate enough to be asked for a signature post show – you may want to consider pressing CDs or vinyl – it’s the souvenir that can’t be streamed.
On the age front, it’s pretty simple. According to a Consumer Trends survey by the RIAA, the largest music buying demographic is the 45+ age group. In turn, if you have an older fan base, you have a significantly better chance of selling physical product. This is the demographic that is more likely to buy music in physical form, likely due to habit and the fact that they still own turntables and CD players.
So, should you press up CDs and Vinyl? It’s a good question. Look for the factors we mentioned in your fanbase and, if you think it makes sense, our advice is to press a small amount to start. You can always re-order.