"You Say Turntable Sales Are Up....There Are No Statistics To Back This Up" (Corrected 3/2/15)

It was twenty years ago, but not today. Close enough though. I was rummaging through some old files when I came upon a letter I'd received from Gary Shapiro, who is now President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, the group that among other things, runs the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The letter was in response to a column I'd written in the September, 1995 issue of Stereophile complaining that the 1995 issue of U.S. Consumer Electronics Industry in Review published by the EIA (Electronic Industries Association) did not contain any turntable sales statistics. At the time, Mr. Shapiro was the Group Vice President of the Consumer Electronics Group within the EIA.

While Mr. Shapiro was gracious in admitting that I was correct in pointing out that 1995 turntable statistics were omitted and in saying they'd be included next year, he also said he'd try to publish statistics about "the percentage of consumers who either prefer listening to records over compact discs or listening to records in addition to compact discs.

But he also pointed out that while CD player sales were down slightly in 1994, 2,771,000 units were sold for a total of $443 million, while turntable sales "...were down for the third straight year: 264,191 units and $27.6 million."

Then he inserted the knife: "You say that turntable sales are up, 'both in the high-end and in the mid-fi marketplaces.' There are no statistics to back this up." Ouch!

Last year (2014), Pro-Ject alone sold 100,000 turntables (we originally reported 250K). We'll soon publish all of this 2014's totals (at least those we can get from manufacturers) of turntables sold and records pressed as we did last year.

You can read the letter Mr. Shapiro sent me all those years ago.

Click here to read page 1.

Click here to read page 2

recordhead's picture

This is great news for vinyl! I can only imagine how many of those P.O.S. Ion or Crosley "record players" sold. Lets hope this will put to rest the this is hip / fashion statement image by the media. I only hope the LP prices will drop a bit.

Catcher10's picture

Drop to what price point?? I think vinyl prices are inline with inflation...An album in 1978 may have cost about $7.00, that would put that value in 2015 at $22.00 roughly.
Considering the volume of vinyl being pressed at that time, compared to today, paying $30.00 seems reasonable to me.

recordhead's picture

Prices are all over the map. While I get that certain special releases will cost more, many single LP's range from $15 - $25. That's a pretty big swing in price for a single LP. I just paid $20 for the new Dylan. $20 is my max on a new single LP. The Dylan release is nice because is comes w/ a CD. It's just my opinion but if you want to keep people buying records you have to make them affordable to the average buyer. I try to support AP advertisers and my local store the best I can but in the end Amazon wins because I can save a few bucks. Long story short, I'm just glad I can still buy records.

avanti1960's picture

just discovered a very nice new / used record store that has been open over a year and is doing very well (far west suburban chicago area, wheaton, IL). nice owner and he has some really hard to find used titles. been there several times and on saturday afternoon it was really busy, filled with young hipsters, middle aged rockers and older music lovers. quite a beautiful thing.

thirtycenturyman's picture

I live in the city, but I'm out that way every now and again. Where's it located?

avanti1960's picture

Mile Long Records on Front St. by the train station.

Catcher10's picture

That used prices are all over the place, I am speaking of only NEW vinyl. Again, I am fine with the prices today since you get a 180gram pressing, usually a dbl vinyl, since most mastering is cutting back on the # of minutes per side. Which seems to help with SQ...Then add in the bonus CD or 320kbps download and that makes the prices even better IMO.
Packaging is much better today than back in the 70's. Also SQ in general seems to be better....Yes we all would LOVE 100% analog meaning tape to vinyl AAA, but not much of that will happen I fear.
Digital recorded music saved to 24bit, then mastered for analog sounds pretty darn sweet!

Also consider in the late 70's, US minimum wage per hour was about $3.00, I have seen reports that as of Dec 2014 it was about $10.40 per hour.

For me I am fine with NEW vinyl prices....Sure there are some prices I do dbl takes on, but normally it when window shopping and not something I listen to anyways...


Anton D's picture

250,000 tables sold just by Project. Amazing!

I wonder what market share Project has? Are they the BSR of modern turntables? (Old vinyl joke from the early 70's.)

A news item I saw somewhere said that the 'Crosley x Peanuts' turntable may be the largest seller of all.

Would it be fair to guess 2 million total turntable sales last year?

For LP's....8 million "new" records were sold in 2014.

Given potential turntables sold per year, and factoring in the number of pre-existing turntables, the average record buyer either has a <5 record collection size....or the real news is hidden in the used vinyl sales!

Man, I wish we had numbers for that!

I would guess....vast.

That project info was fascinating. Thanks! Before you provided that data, I would have guessed "a thousand." I was off by 250 times!

isaacrivera's picture

As Michael has reported recently, over 30 million records were pressed last year. Many of those in small incremental orders. The sales number reported by Soundscan/Nielsen is too conservative unless somewhere labels are stockpiling 22 million unsold records.

30 million is about 1 record per 200 people on the planet. That does not even account for used record sales, which may be an even bigger number.

Journeyman's picture

for Pro-Ject! 250,000 turntables it's great news for them!
I'm a bit biased because they are a European company I truly respect.
Great design and engineers not only in turntables but in most stuff they make.
Every time I see a Pro-Ject turntable I'm tempted to buy one...
As for sales, it would be nice to have some numbers from the vinyl used market but turntable are also a good indicator.

sandyu's picture

Back when we all bought vinyl in the 60s, the price was $3.98 or $4.98 for an LP.

But price isn't the real issue in a comparison to LPs of then and today: The real problem was, towards the end of the LP era manufacturers were grinding up old LPs and melting them down to make new ones.

Yes, they left on the paper labels when grinding up the old LPs.

Yes, the LPs were shrink wrapped so they were guaranteed to melt before you got them home.

Yes, we adjusted tracking force with dimes, pennies and nickels, and we cleaned our LPs with imported (from England) mixtures of alcohol and silicone, and our stylus with thumbs.

BTW, our old LPs used to have raised outer edges and label areas so when the changer dropped them down, the grooves wouldn't contact each other. And the groove area itself was made extra-thin and flexible to achieve the same effect through air resistance.

(Anti-skate? What anti-skate? Why some of my 50s/60s stereo LPs ain't got no left channel nowadays, neither.)

Fact is, a modern $20/$25 LP of 180 g. hasn't got anything in common with our mid-century LPs. For example, back then, the noise from the recording tape almost drowned out the ride cymbals. Nobody would stand for that today.

Comparing a 50s/60s LP of $4-$5 to a $20 180g LP of today is like comparing an early H-P calculator to today's Mac Pro. Or, even better, an iPhone.

alphaGT62's picture

Seeing real numbers that prove just how much record, and record player sales have grown is interesting, and very important numbers to an industry, and the companies that make it up. But there is certainly no doubt that it is up! That much is already certain.

I also agree that new records are far superior to the vast majority of albums I bought in the 70's and early 80's. I mean, who wouldn't love lower prices? But the price is fair. I personally can tell that the demand for records is up by the price of used records! Just 4 or 5 years ago I was loading up on used albums from The Online Market Place, at around $1 to $2 each! And the last ones I purchased were $7 and $9 each! More than they cost when new I suspect. Sure there are still some junk out there for a dollar, but popular records in reasonable condition have shot up in price in the used market by a large amount in a very short time. This is where the popularity of vinyl today becomes very real to me, demand is really up. So, while it costs me more to build my collection, it also makes the collection worth more.

tlbtangent's picture

Please advise when I might see the turntable sales figures. I need some market data for a business plan to launch my recently patented tangent tonearm idea as a product.