Approximately 73,985,000 Records Pressed Worldwide in 2014 So How Can 9.2 Million Sold Be Correct? (Updated 5/4/15)

After speaking to some industry insiders, as well as reading some comments here, it's clear that these numbers are probably somewhat inflated. As a reader pointed out, these numbers probably include pressed, but not distributed defective records caught before they could be slipped into jackets and shipped. Also, given the number of multi-LP box sets reissued last year, when a pressing plant says it pressed "X" number of records, that includes things like Optimal's pressing of The Beatles Mono Box Set, for instance, and double 45rpm reissues so, clearly the 73 million figure overstates the case. Nonetheless, even if you halve the number, more than 35 million records pressed is an impressive number! Another insider says Nielsen/Soundscan's number is for America only. Still, I think it's safe to say they are underreporting actual totals—ed.

The graphic above is incorrect but based upon projections for 2014. Nielsen/Soundscan reported recently that 9.2 million vinyl records were sold in 2014—a whopping 54% increase over 2013.

How can that number be close to correct when my research says that in 2014 approximately 73,985,000 (yes SEVENTY THREE MILLION NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE THOUSAND) records were pressed?

How did I arrive at my numbers? For most of the world's largest pressing plants I got confidential numbers directly from the pressing plants.

Three pressing plants alone pressed in 2014 approximately THIRTY FIVE MILLION RECORDS. And that doesn't include United Record Pressing, Nashville, which refuses to respond to emails. While some companies responded that they'd rather not reveal numbers, United doesn't respond at all.

Why? Because they are babies who can't take criticism when they press bad records, and ignore the positive press given on this site when they press good ones. I added 9,360,000 records pressed by United based upon a 2014 Billboard story stating that URP presses 30,000-40,000 records a day, six days a week. I multiplied by 30K not 40K.

Some of the numbers I was given mix 7" singles with LPs so based upon the mix of presses that I was able to research, I adjusted the numbers downward. Where I was able to only get approximate numbers (based upon an industry spread sheet that I was able to obtain that consistently underreported numbers where I was able to get actual numbers), I purposely decreased the numbers, preferring to understate rather than overstate the totals.

As I reported recently, Stoughton Press shipped Jack White's Third Man Records 170,000 Lazaretto jackets, yet Soundscan/Nielsen insists only approximately 86,000 copies were sold in 2014. Does that mean Jack White is a "jacket hoarder"? I doubt it. Nor does the huge disparity in pressed and sold records mean that labels are "vinyl hoarders".

Quite the opposite in fact! Labels aim to keep inventory low so order only what they think they can sell in a reasonable period of time. We know that every record pressed isn't immediately or even within a year sold at retail.

Nonetheless, the gigantic disparity between the approximately 73,000,000 records pressed and the 9.2 million reported to have been sold by Nielsen/Soundscan needs to be examined, especially when three pressing plants alone claim to have pressed more records in 2014 than Nielsen/Soundscan reported were sold in 2014.

Even if you slice off a percentage for 7" singles, the disparity is huge between pressed and reported sales. And one can argue 7" singles should be counted because they are vinyl and played on turntables and in some ways the singles resurgence is even more unlikely than the album resurgence. After all, iTunes is made for convenience and singles purchases and 7" singles are a genuine pain in the butt to play.

So even cutting the total in half means that approximately 37,000,000 records were pressed or more than four times the number S/N reported were sold last year.

Interestingly, the predicted totals this year from some of the pressing plants who supplied totals for 2013 were well in excess of those numbers and guess what? The numbers predicted for 2015 by the larger plants are greater yet!


Guess they haven't changed in the year since I stopped being their customer; customer service also never answered phones either, so don't waste your time trying that route, either.

I would like to point out that while there's obviously a massive growth in major label releases on vinyl, there's always been a big group of independent labels getting records pressed who are certainly off the SoundScan/Nielsen radar, either selling directly or through smaller distribution chains like Dischord/ CTD/ Midheaven. I doubt it makes up anywhere near the disparity, but could maybe account for a decent chunk?

tingly's picture

Soundscan rejects some stores, possibly get rejected by others, and are only in 4 countries. If they account for half of worldwide sales, 18 million sold vs. 74 or even 37 million pressed is still a mighty wide gap.

Martin's picture

Wonder why?
That is a huge discrepancy.
Anybody got an email address for Neilson/Soundscan?

J. Carter's picture

Most independent record stores aren't tracked by Nielsen/Soundscan so you will never get an accurate total of how many records were sold but it should be able to get close to what the percentages will be.

sunderwood's picture

I was in Barnes and Noble yesterday and bought Axis:Bold as Love. A man there told me that their record sales are doing very well. It would be interesting to know what the sales numbers would be if you could add in used records.

Ortofan's picture

...counted as only one disc or as the total number of discs contained therein?

Grant M's picture

Any industry sales reporting system relies on participation from retailers, which is always incomplete. For certain, the global nature of Internet sales makes accurate numbers unlikely. I'm sure like many others, I've bought records from all over the world in 2014, shipped to Canada. I would guess that actual inventory levels of records are growing at resellers around the world. It has to, since so many more titles are available now than even 2 or 3 years ago, certainly not every record made in 2014 was sold.

Its more a curiosity what the actual number of records sold is. If I were in the business, how much inventory is turning over, what margins are being made on making and selling, growth in unit sales, and the average selling price matter more to the profitability. Mostly, I think record fans want to see a profitable industry that is sustainable for the foreseeable future. Boom times create quality problems and shortages, and an over investment in production capacity could also lead to a glut of inventory. Hopefully a balance is worked out.

Bgupton's picture

I high percentage of albums require multiple LP's. Many are also box sets that have even more. While the number of records sold is probably significantly higher than what is reported, this fact probably accounts for a big chunk of the discrepancy I'd think.


Also, as an example, I ordered 500 records from a certain plant... They took about 1,600 copies to get me 500 that were not warped; those others were returned to them and never for sale, but I assume they count that towards their pressed # of records. This place is, as noted above, not in Mr Fremer's #s, but I'm sure that happens to some extent at all plants, which is another part of the pie of these numbers.

Michael Fremer's picture
I am going to ask among the pressing plants that responded.
Grant M's picture

Mikey, it seems a missing part of the equation is the amount of product in the pipeline. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest retail inventory is growing to meet increasing demand. Normally, any analysis of a market is going to include unsold inventory levels. Not that this alone explains the gap between the numbers in production and sales, but if you're interested in understanding the market, inventory is part of the picture.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I had a chance to visit Welcome to 1979, a great tape recording studio in Nashville on an invite from Cameron Harvey and the owner, Chris Mara. A very nice tour of their place and a great lunch together talking about all this audio. They also can take their tracking work, master it, and cut lacquers right at their place, a very good thing.

Cameron also took me for a private tour of United Record Pressing and I was impressed by the shear volume of the work coming through there plant. Pressing plants are close to "wigget" factories, so glamour is out the door, but what they do does give vinyl lovers some of the most affordable new vinyl pressings out there, and that to me is a good thing. Not everyone can afford $30 to $50 for a new lps and I am happy that many can and do as most of those releases are as state of the art as one can get and sound amazing. There is a place for United in all of this.

I was told that a new plant manager had been brought on board and was a stickler for quality, but the only way for one to know was if a lp buyer knew his purchase was pressed at United, not easy for us to know.

It was still a great trip, most enjoyable and I will be indebted to Cameron and Chris for the most gracious invite. If you are ever in Nashville you might see if they would have time for a short tour. If I was a working musician I would get my tracks laid at Welcome to 1979.

If you want a sampler of Welcome to 1979's work pressed at United go to Amazon and look at the releases from "Upstairs at United" Recorded by the crew from Welcome to 1979, and listen to some of their 45 rpm lps. Great way to find out if you like their work. I sure do.

Michael Fremer's picture
I've written about them after finding their mastering stamp on some records. The best way to identify a United pressing is the circled "U" in the lead-out groove area. That means the lacquers were processed and plated there too.
matt1234's picture

Does Amazon contribute numbers to Nielsen/Soundscan? This could account for a huge chunk.

analogkid14's picture

Soundscan does not track independent stores, so even their CD sales figures are not entirely accurate, but it is a good snapshot of what albums are selling.Vinyl is rare at your Wal-Marts and Targets, and chains like Barnes and Noble do not participate in Soundscan.

I'm not sure if they figure European sales, which never altogether gave up on vinyl, the way the USA did.

Regardless of the reporting, the fact that new releases from top artists now include a vinyl version, and lots of reissues of older material are increasing, vinyl looks to stick around for a long time to come.

As for United, I have several of the Blue Note limited 10 inch vinyl editions, and I am pretty sure they are pressed at United, and they are all good. Most Third Man stuff have been good pressings, and the one that was bad, they exchanged no problem.So United is getting better, even with all the extra business.

Michael Fremer's picture
And I've written that as well but I guess they bruise easily.
avanti1960's picture

I love the fact that so many LPs were pressed last year.
I believe the difference between the reported numbers vs actual numbers is not that relevant- because the reporting firm needs to be consistent in their survey and data acquisition year over year in order to show accurate trends.
Look at the year to year trends- which is awesome for vinyl lovers- and not the numbers so much.
In order for the trending info to be accurate, they need to keep their measuring consistent, even if it is not complete.

J. S. Bach's picture many records were pressed in 1980. Using the same criteria, of course. Just a humble thought on an otherwise boring Friday afternoon. BTW, Mikey, a very interesting read, I enjoyed it.

LaserRanger's picture

If the size of their backlog is to be believed, then it's easy to understand why United doesn't respond to criticism: they don't need to.


Is a lot of repressing jobs they didn't do correctly in the first place, as well as promising a 8 week turnaround time that then magically turns into 24 with no contact from their part ...

Music Loving Motorcyclist's picture


flood's picture

Since a very good portion of vinyl produced is done by indie labels who 1) don't report, 2) don't have registered barcodes, and sold via 1) small stores who don't report, 2)distros who don't report, and 3) at venues who don't report... you have your answer right there.

My label has sold a sufficient number of records every year since '05 and never reported a single one, and i'm friends with dozens and dozens of other labels who are in the same boat. Extrapolate that across all genres worldwide.. and that's a ton of records that soundscan isn't seeing.

Furthermore.. why would URP have to answer your request? its a private business and its proprietary info. Jay's a really stand up dude, and you're going to cyber troll him because you can't get info for what seems to be a rather badly researched article? Don't be a dick man.

labjr's picture

Maybe Nielsen only counts the records with true analog masters :)

Dane Henas's picture

C'mon, it doesn't take Fellini to figure this one out! Records, for the most part, are too damn expensive. My local record stores that stock new vinyl (a few smaller independents don't stock much in the way of new stuff) say that except in rare cases, the stuff over $20 just sits there. The recent Record Store Day's sales were off, according to the guys at Dimple Vinyl in Sacraemnto. There's still tons of stuff from the last few RSDs. People are tired of paying $30 for an LP and $12-15 for a friggin' 7". What is selling? Blue Note 75 year reissues and sadly, the Euro-trash jazz bootlegs because they're around 20 bucks.

Archimago's picture

Looking around locally, I'm really not seeing much sales of new LPs. There was a decent lineup at RSD locally at one place but I saw quite a few of the 'specials' on the shelves the other day a few weeks later now... Also I see about the same titles on the shelves at a local chain that has a decent stock of new LPs.

Used sales look decent around here though. Agree that the prices are a bit excessive especially compared to used. With the strength of the US$ lately, mail order has been made worse for those of us who used to mail order more ( I'm in Canada).

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

I take it the 74 million is all known plants worldwide and I take it Soundscan only applies to USA retail. It is probable in spite of the size of the US market that it accounts for less than half of LP sales. EU countries especially UK and Germany are major consumers of that pressing figure. LP manufacturing is now a Globalised industry not based on local production. Many independents and on-line retailers do not feature in Industry sales figures nor do independent labels. I would be surprised if the mighty Amazon's sales are included in Industry sales figures either in North America or Europe.

My guess is that on-line sales are the major source of Lps for most people. Even in a relatively small area like the UK there is no decent new vinyl retailer within 35 miles of where I live so all my purchases are purchased by on-line mail order these days.

Some pressing runs sell out within weeks but others would take several years to sell. With predicted sales increases current quantities produced likely reflect the growing medium term market. While labels don't hold inventory larger on-line retailers often do especially for less popular titles that are not under produced. The problem I see is that in many cases labels are being too conservative with orders making some titles instant £100+ 'collectables' that on-line scalpers can profit from.

MerckMercuriadis's picture

You hit the nail on the head. Michael has compiled worldwide pressings but Sooundscan is US (and primarily retail) only. The US is about 30% of the worldwide record market so if you take the 9.2 million sold (according to Billboard and multiply it by 3 then add in another 50% sold by those that don't report to soundscan and then add in another 50% for records that have been pressed but are sitting in stores and online retailers waiting to be sold then you get close to Michael's estimated number of records pressed.

usernaim250's picture

They have always counted multi-disk sets by the disk--hence it's easier for a double LP to go gold, and the Beatles box charted because each sale was times 13. So their numbers are as far off as it looks, far as I can tell.