Adele’s album “30” and what’s up with vinyl sales and the supply chain, explained

The supply chain is for everyone, including Adele. Or maybe it’s Adele who’s coming for the supply chain, specifically, the vinyl supply chain.

The British singer released her latest album, 30, on Friday with much global fanfare, and is expected to make major worldwide sales (at a time when physical music sales are rare). It has been speculated that Adele’s huge impact may also have implications for the music business, and not necessarily all good ones. Sony Music reportedly ordered some 500,000 copies of vinyl records for the album’s release, which could put a squeeze on an already tight supply chain. With Adele pushing all those records, it has been speculated that she is displacing a space for others. At the very least, the problem is drawing attention to a veritable crisis in the music industry.

“All of these bigger artists are selling more vinyl records, and all together they are clogging the plants, whereas a few years ago, vinyl was probably second-tier to these artists or even third-tier,” said Mike Quinn. Head of Sales for ATO Records, an independent record label based in New York City. But he is not too concerned. “We haven’t had any plants reject us saying, ‘Oh, we have too many records of Adele.’

Vinyl has seen a renaissance over the past decade, and demand increased further during the pandemic. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl sales grew 28.7 percent in value from 2019 to 2020 to $ 626 million. Last year also marked the first year that vinyl surpassed CDs in total revenue since the 1980s. Manufacturers have struggled to keep up.

“Vinyl has been emerging, or re-emerging, from the dark ages since probably 2007, 2008. It just did it under the radar,” said Brandon Seavers, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Records, a vinyl manufacturer. “The pandemic hit and everything exploded.”

Adele is not to blame for the vinyl supply chain problems. She, like all artists, wants to sell a lot of records, and even without her, the industry has been facing delays and setbacks and struggling to keep up with growing demand for quite some time. As Shamir, a musician from Philadelphia, put it in an interview with NPR, “Adele is not the culprit,” but she’s not “helping either.”

Adele has expressed her annoyance at the album’s delivery time, in an interview with BBC Radio noting that 30The release date had to be set six months in advance in order to make CDs and vinyl. “So many CD and vinyl factories, they fucking shut down even before Covid because no one prints them anymore,” he said. And those who are printing them are having a hard time keeping up.

Vinyl records aren’t just for your dad anymore

CDs were supposed to end vinyl for good after the 1970s and 1980s. It turns out that the format had some staying power, or rather, some resurgent power that emerged in the 21st century.

Vinyl sales began to rebound in the middle of this month and received a significant boost when big box stores like Walmart and Target got together and started ordering records. According to Billboard, the mass commercial sector now accounts for about 13 percent of vinyl sales, up from 4 percent in 2018. The pandemic propelled the vinyl renaissance into high gear.

“People were trapped in their houses, so they were looking for things to do. And they cooked and baked sourdough and planted gardens and bought a platoon. And apparently they listened to vinyl records too, ”Seavers said. “The other factual thing that happened is that the vinyl really caught the attention of the big retailers. Amazon was already a big proponent of the format, and Walmart and Target had been dipping their feet in the water. In 2020, they went headfirst. “

As with wood or computer chips, supply simply has not been able to keep up with demand. Earlier this year, an anonymous executive told Billboard that vinyl press plants globally have the capacity to produce about 160 million albums this year. He estimated demand for vinyl to be around 320 million to 400 million units.

Vinyl press machines are old and clumsy, and they are difficult to fix in normal times, let alone with the current delays that are plaguing so many industries. Quinn said a plant he works with had two of its six machines recently broken down. Parts that would normally take five to six days to replace took two months. The industry has also faced labor shortages.

Obtaining raw materials is taking manufacturers much longer than normal, including vinyl pellets that are melted to press them into records. Most are produced overseas and shipped overseas, so they face long delays. Color granules, often used by artists and retailers to produce exclusive or limited-edition versions, are proving to be a specific challenge.

“With the amount of exclusive variations we push on a record, I wonder if I’m doing Beanie Babies sometimes,” Sean Rutkowski, vice president of Independent Record Pressing, told Variety.

Adele is not really the problem here

Adele 30 It has generated some headlines and speculation as to whether it is making the vinyl delays worse. Five hundred thousand records is a lot of records, but in the grand scheme of things when 160 million records are being made, it’s not really the end of everything, it’s everything. None of this is to say that Adele isn’t a big deal. She 25 in 2015 it sold more than 3 million copies in the United States in one week; her recent Oprah special averaged 9.92 million viewers, topping all programming except the NFL in primetime. She 30 it’s something people want to hear, even on vinyl.

But again, the vinyl delays aren’t really your fault. The problem is more that the production is already at capacity, and the artists new and old, big and small, are all lined up.

The vinyl industry has long been driven by the classics – the Beatles, Eagles, and Fleetwood Macs of the world. Now newer artists are getting into the vinyl game too, like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish and, yes, Adele.

“You have to do it well in advance, and Adele had basically booked all the vinyl factories, so we had to get a space and put our album there. It was like me, Coldplay, Adele, Taylor, Abba, Elton (John), we were all trying to print our vinyls at the same time, “said Sheeran, who released a new album in October, on an Australian radio show, according to Variety. .

Rumor has it that some of the bigger names may queue up or make attractive offers to vinyl pressers to secure space for them, which could crowd out the smaller names. Still, much of the problem really seems to be capacity. Independent artists are trying to compete for the same machines as the greats, and everyone is waiting. Presumably Adele also had to wait for her records to print.

“In the industry, we’ve all been making these classics in ever-higher numbers over the years, so those numbers were already in the system,” Seavers said. “There are new artists who want an incredible amount of new vinyl to meet the demand for their release date.”

According to Billboard’s tracking, the list of the 15 best-selling vinyl LPs to date in 2021 includes albums by Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Harry Styles, as well as Michael Jackson. Suspense novel, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumorsand the greatest hits of Queen.

The situation is bad for everyone, although for independent artists who are already disadvantaged in many ways in the music industry, it hurts more. “It’s a bit more of an insult to injury for these indies because it’s the hard-earned money in their pockets, and it’s their touring that they’re suffering,” Seavers said.

Quinn said that ATO, as a midsize label, is better positioned than some smaller labels because they have long-standing relationships with printing plants and agreements for a certain number of registrations per month. It is still not as much as they need.

The vinyl boom isn’t the worst problem for the music industry, or Adele, to have

What nobody wants is for an artist to have to go on tour before their records come out. It happens sometimes, especially in today’s climate, and when it happens, it’s not great. However, in general for the industry, the increased demand for vinyl records is not a terrible problem.

“It sucks if you don’t have LPs to sell on the tour or if you sell out your first edition and can’t get it for another six, seven or eight months,” Quinn said. But ultimately, he said, this is a “very good problem.”

The internet and streaming have put pressure on music artists and made it harder to earn money. They’ve changed a lot about what an artist has to do to survive, which means they have to tour more and more intensively, produce more merchandise, and look for things that they can have physical control over. Streaming revenue increased 13.4 percent to $ 10.1 billion in 2022, according to the RIAA, but it takes a lot of streams to get what it would get from the sale of a single LP. For artists big and small, a vinyl record, if you can sell it, is real money. And if Adele gets someone to buy her first vinyl record and they start buying others, that’s fine.

The point is, it takes time for supply chain problems to resolve themselves. The vinyl industry is working to increase its capacity where possible. Seavers’ Memphis Records will release about 7 million records this year and aims to quadruple production by 2023; it is a change that will not happen overnight.

Across the industry, it’s unclear how long the vinyl boom will last. Manufacturers, retailers, and labels don’t want LP warehouses if the market turns cold. It is a difficult balancing act to determine whether the current increase in demand will continue or if it will increase further. When My Morning Jacket, a band under ATO, was set to release a new album this spring, Walmart and Target came in with purchases that doubled the number of vinyl records they had initially planned to make, Quinn said. Still, you are not sure how long this will last. “That wasn’t there a year ago,” he said. “I don’t know how long Walmart and Target will be in the vinyl game.”

Meanwhile, everyone is more or less ready for the ride, including Adele and her 500,000 LP, (maybe) on the shelves now.

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