Were Approximately 75,000,000 LP Records Pressed Worldwide in 2015?

I received a spread sheet earlier in the year estimating how many records would be pressed in 2016. The total was well in excess of 80,000,000 (yes, eighty million).

But, because it was an estimate I didn't want to run with it. The spread sheet lists all of the pressing plants worldwide that you've heard of and many, many others you've never heard of. The estimate of how many records will be pressed worldwide this year is 84,130,000 and that doesn't include a few new plants up and running that have not supplied any numbers..

Now, you can say that's only an estimate so who knows what the real numbers will be. Perhaps they will be way down as the naysayers are predicting.

However, I have the same spreadsheet estimate for 2014, which estimated approximately 69 million records would be pressed that year and the actual number turned out to be pretty close.

However, I have actual 2015 numbers supplied to me by representatives of many of pressing plants around the world. I promised not to divulge individual pressing plant numbers and so I won't but when I look at the numbers estimated for 2016 and compare them with the actual numbers supplied to me for 2015, the estimated numbers appear extremely credible and a very reasonable percentage larger than the actual supplied numbers.

The actual supplied numbers for 2015 from but a small number of pressing plants totaled more than 45,000,000 records pressed (not including rejects). That includes more than 24,000,000 pressed in America alone, which tells you that either Nielsen/Soundscan is way underestimating sales, or exports are huge or there's a glut of records on the market, which I don't believe.

So I'm quite confident stating that at least 75,000,000 12" LP records were pressed worldwide in 2015 and according to my sources, the ones who do talk to me tell me that the numbers for 2016, which is now more than half over, will be considerably greater., meaning the worldwide total should be close to the 80,000,000+ estimate.

IR Shane's picture

No, people are not looney for listening to digital. I do it too, and am even releasing some CD/SACDs soon on IR.

I'm talking about the trolls who are having so much fun listening to their digital that they would rather spend their time bitching about vinyl on the Internet than listen to their digits.

We know who they are. And their claims. including these recent gems:

"Half the people who are buying vinyl aren't listening to the records and/or don't have turntables." (right, very attractive paper weights and so forth. now my secret is out- I buy the heavier stock for my jackets from Stoughton because they hold down more paper.)

"Vinyl's growth is due to the CD's decline." Of course not due to better sound because:

"The great sound is just 'artifacts.'" (an old and not a goody, but it never goes away).

"Record stores can't afford rent in Manhattan anymore so vinyl must have peaked."

"The mainstream media likes vinyl too much and they don't get it." (but you do).

On and on. Had my fill lately, hence the rant. But I bet they're coming.

Analog Scott's picture

I am of the opinion that the great sound we get from vinyl actually is just "artifacts" or more sepcifically euphonic colorations. But I also say who cares? If it sounds good it is good. That it comes from distortion doesn't bother me in the least. In fact I would say we as audiophiles would all be better off if those in the production side of things took this reality to heart and tried to use it to it's advantage.

OldschoolE's picture

I like reading your comment or "rant" although I prefer to call it "telling it like it is". That said, I will point out that while it is certainly not half the people buying vinyl records not listening to them or owning a table, there is a percentage who do fit that description sadly. I've run into many of those and I would say about 15% are that way. They are in it to make a fast buck on the popularity of vinyl and know next to nothing about records themselves. To me that is sad because my sole purpose in buying vinyl records is to listen to them and keep them in my library so I can listen as often as I like and bask in the memories vinyl records reveal. In other words, enjoy!
Another thing I have heard lots of lately is from audiophiles who are now saying streaming is superior to vinyl records and then turning around and flip-flopping back and forth. Makes me wonder. Me? I'm happy as can be with my vinyl records and CDs (ones the sound nearly as good as their vinyl counterparts and ones that plain are not on vinyl).

To me it doesn't matter if it's 80 million or 40 million or whatever. That fact is that far more vinyl is being pressed these days than back in the 80s through 2000 or so. I'd say it is near the level of vinyl's heyday. Just my 2 cents.

elliotdrum's picture

It's interesting that the list prices on many labels have gone up.
The three major audiophile sellers on the internet are running
continual sale prices right now 20% discounts. If vinyl sales are
so strong why do they need to run a sale?
If the prices were fair right from the beginning there would not be
a reason to run a sale. When are sellers going to respect the intelligence of a customer?

Grant M's picture

I have been saying the exact same thing to friends. Acoustic Sounds hasn't taken down the 10% discount from their site since December 2015. Recently the other well known on-line 'audiophile' sellers have upped the ante to 15-20%. They're all fighting for the same customers.

IR Shane's picture

There are lots of reasons to run a sale that have more to do with retail cycles than sales in a particular category or pricing that was "unfair" to begin with.

It's a different game for the major labels, and in their case I don't know what the economics are even though some of the costs are likely familiar. I think if you look at the premium reissue labels the pricing is pretty much in line with one another and very fair considering the high costs involved in doing them at a high quality level.

I can also tell you that the numbers Mikey cites here and the queues at the plants that press records and print jackets do not add up to producing vinyl of any kind more cheaply, and of course that's even more dramatically true for the premium reissue labels doing 180 gram LPs at the best plants. It is not cheap for anyone to do high quality vinyl today.

isaacrivera's picture

Those sellers are running a volume game and if they increase their market share, they increase their merchandise flow and their revenue. A discount does not mean they don't sell enough, or are not profitable. What it means in this case is, they do not want to be outsold because a few months down the line, that may mean being out of business. It is preferable to sell at a smaller margin and hold a good slice of the pie, than to make a bigger margin and have a shrinking slice.

rssarma's picture

Maybe if they stopped selling that record at $45.99, they wouldn't need to woo people with silly sales. Sometimes the price of admission into vinyl can be ludicrous! Its sad how prices have gone up so much once the format has started gaining traction.

IR Shane's picture

I think that one's been done twice in the last few years. Wonderful record, but still. BTW, once you commit to double LPs for running time or other reasons you have to price at $40-$55 if you're a third-party label. Premium vinyl is costly, but gatefolds are more expensive than single jackets and obviously your LP costs fully double.

OldschoolE's picture

the fact that most of the pressing machines and such have been in mothballs for at least two decades and other states of disrepair, so not only might it cost say $10k to $15k to purchase one of these machines as-is on a deal, but it's at least $25k to get them back in order and running well on top of that. Then you have cost of materials if your not melting old bic pens and such, especially for smaller shops or shops specializing in 180 gram and the like. I'm not blindly justifying the cost of new records, I do think it is too high and I certainly can't afford to pay $30+ for a record and besides, it's no fun doing so. However, there is perspective in all things considered.

Analog Scott's picture

I would imagine that the audiophile labels will stop releasing it when audiophiles stop buying it. This is a point of frustration but I get it. Labels have to sell what will actually sell. So we see the same war horses rotated on a pretty regular basis. We are probably due for the next great Kind of Blue or Dark Side of the Moon. Maybe we can get some more RCA shaded dogs too. And what about Muddy Waters Folk Singer? Aren't we due for the 10th audiophile reissue of that one? But....I don't blame the labels for giving audiophiles what they want.

Maury's picture

I think reported US vinyl sales were about 11 million units in 2015. Are 24 million records pressed that far off from historical norms? In other words are record sales typically 45-50% of the number of total records pressed? That would suggest 35 million records were sold out of 75 million pressed worldwide.

isaacrivera's picture

There is a big difference between sales vs. prints when vinyl was the main medium and now. Back then they could over press and warehouse and get benefits of scale. In today's niche market, like Michael says, labels order small batches they they project they can sell in a reasonable amount of time. As the future of the medium is still uncertain, warehousing for scale benefits is a risky strategy. Recovering your investment and making a profit in shorter term is prefered, thus smaller runs and higher prices.

Maury's picture

No offense but I was inquiring about actual data not opinion. If you have a link or actual data can you provide? I fail to see how overpressing though is different because of the size of the overall market. Overpressing is a business loss regardless of the size of the printing run. The relevant number is the overrun proportion and the point at which some X level of overpressing is financially ruinous. Yes the current market is smaller but the sales / pressings ratio may or may not be identical over the years.

The implication has been that Sales are being under-reported because the Sales figures are 45% or less of total pressings. I am just saying that unless we know the overpressing ratio it is not possible to say whether the Soundscan figures are basically correct or not.

isaacrivera's picture

If your accountant can turn a business loss into a profit, I'd like his contact info!!!

As an entrepreneur, a business loss only saves me taxes, but it does not (1) return my investment, or (2) makes me a profit. And I am not even sure I can declare warehoused LPs as a business loss, as I actually own the warehoused LPs, they have value, they are just not liquid. So now my cash is tied up in unsold stock.

If the market research of a label forecasts that a label can sell enough records for a run within some time, they may print it, if not they won't, and they won't print more than they forecast. If I print 4000 copies and I have to eat 3000, there is no business loss that covers the lost profit and potentially the investment loss, depending on what the margin is on LPs. Speaking to label owners, I know is not very much.

When labels could sell millions of copies of an LP, the economies of scale meant that even if they did not sell a good chunk, they would make a profit. Today with smaller runs, LPs are much more expensive to print. If you can't sell enough, you lose. No accountant can save you from that.

So labels are being conservative and printing just enough, no warehousing.

Grant M's picture

Yes, there is a lot of vinyl being sold, but there are so many places to buy new records, i think there is a risk the amount of unsold inventory could create a financial problem for the industry. Add to the fact there literally 100's of millions of used records out there. It seems likely that if sales don't keep growing there will be businesses swimming in vinyl. Bills will go unpaid. The boom goes bust. Let's hope there is some sanity out there.

IR Shane's picture

If any retail store is not careful at managing inventory they are putting themselves and their partners at risk. This is true of any form of retail not just record stores. Retail is very very hard and requires prudent management in the best of times.

I've read other analyses saying that one or two record stores in NY went bust so the vinyl boom must be over. This ignores the high overhead in NYC and many other factors.

Grant M's picture

Shane nails it.

elliotdrum's picture

I owned two stores over a ten year period and sold my last store in 1995. Inventory if your not careful grows and grows and that happens as new releases and reissues come out and when ordering it's hard to turn down important titles. That puts a lot pressure to keep moving product. A store is always going to have dead stock and that's a reality. Every month we did pulls and returned our maximum allowance and replaced with new or different titles so as to keep stock fresh. I only had sale prices on new releases that are mostly loss leaders and I hopefully covered credit charges if used so as not to lose money when ringing up a sale. I occasionally ran a sale on a certain genre of music usually a new age sale.
When Changesbowie came out I sold over a 100 copies at $9.99 in 2 days had a profit of about .50 but the point is consistency.

I guess the biggest thing to me is when calling one of these online stores I could not find anyone that would clue you in to how good is the sound quality?, one of the stores always claims it
sounds great! I'm not saying that I'm the most honest guy on the
planet but if I knew the sound quality of a certain title I always
told them the truth that's partly how I built my customers trust.

Anton D's picture

Regarding sales prices....

Back in the halcyon days of vinyl, you were a sucka if you paid full list price for an album.

I can't be the only one here who remembers that.

Some degree of discount was a given! I expect it is a throw back thing for us "old" buyers of new pressings.

Back me up, Michael! ;-D

J. S. Bach's picture

...I am curious how many records were pressed in 1976. Now that would be a valid comparison; to me, at least.

cdlp4578's picture

Take a moment to think about the 20% discounts currently running.

We are talking mail order here, of vinyl records. As a customer, you are ordering vinyl through the mail in hot summer months and having the stuff sit in hot transit conditions for several days. Even if weather conditions aren't the reason, the overall mail order vinyl market does see a noticeable sales volume drop in the summer months. So the sellers have to make cash flow + inventory decisions as well as competitive decisions. Hence the 20% off incentives.