With Sony Investment, Vinyl is Officially “Back”

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With the advent of digital music, many in the biz scoffed. Those iPod things were just a fad, another Steve Jobs gimmick that would fizzle out. They, as we all know, turned out to be very, very wrong. But now music has come even further than that. Ask any 20-something you know, and you will find they don’t even download tunes anymore. They’re subscribed to a service that builds playlists based on preferences.

Oh, and the younger generation is also choosing another way to hear their favorite tunes: on vinyl. Record stores have been slowly on the uptick in recent years as Boomers, tired of all the technology marching ahead of them, and younger listeners interested in the warm joy of analog tunes, opt for the “retro” experience of records.

Even with the gradual uptick, many in the biz looked at vinyl as a passing fad. Sure, it was getting popular again, but it would always be a pitifully small segment of the market. And, as it appears, they were wrong again. After nearly 30 years without making a record, Sony Music is back in the vinyl business. A Sony spokesperson told CNN the impetus for the move was simply following the market. There was growing demand, so they wanted to meet it. This could be a watershed moment for music lovers, as Sony is home to an eclectic array of superstar talent including Beyonce, Adele, and Daft Punk.

But even with all the hot names, how popular, exactly, is vinyl? According to CNN, vinyl has posted double-digit growth for seven years … and counting. These days, they are selling about 40 million platters, to the tune of about $900 million annually. Definitely not chump change…and there’s even better news for companies considering a return to vinyl: records are on pace to bring in 18% of the physical music revenue this year. That’s nearly one dollar in every five.

And, with physical music sales, opportunities for accessory sales are making a comeback. Both Sony and Panasonic have new record players out in recent years, and other companies are following suit.

The big idea here is that paying attention to the market is much smarter than assuming what trends will be. Public relations and marketing are not just about trying to guess where the market will go next, it’s also about knowing what customers will respond to…i.e.: what are they really looking for. Sony is betting records are back. If they’re right, expect their competition to jump on the bandwagon … but they better not wait too long.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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