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Vinyl and tape sales boom as Chicago label launches 78 rpm series

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Vinyl sales are at their highest since the 1990s according to new figures, outselling CDs for the first time since the 1980s.

Music industry body the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) reported 4.8 million sales of items on vinyl, constituting 18% of the entire market. Although the top four highest sellers were classic albums by Fleetwood Mac, Oasis, Amy Winehouse and Nirvana, half of the top ten in 2020 was made up of new albums by Harry Styles, Kylie Minogue, AC/DC, IDLES and Arctic Monkeys.

Cassette sales also recorded a boom year, doubling last year’s official tally to sell 157,000 units.

BPI boss Geoff Taylor described the results as “remarkable” in a year when many retail outlets have been closed. “The surge in sales despite retail closures demonstrates the timeless appeal of collectable physical formats alongside the seamless connectivity of streaming,” he said.

Meanwhile, the new trend towards adopted older formats has been taken one step further by Chicago record label Pristinus, who have resurrected the 78 RPM shellac disc for a new series of 10” singles. The first, a pressing of ‘Catnapping 1992’ by Dublin-based experimental contemporary classical composer Daniel Figgis, is limited to 20 copies retailing at $50 each.

A statement from the label explains: “Not so much a label as a project, Pristinus aims to explore the sound of contemporary music through the filter of the archaic medium of the shellac 78 rpm disc. Produced in strictly limited physical editions, releases for Pristinus will include a range of textures and international voices. For those who love the sound of shellac scratch, Pristinus aims to scratch that itch.”