Happy Record Store Day! Here Are the 10 Top-Selling Vinyl Albums of 2013
Much of the talk about the music industry last year revolved around the fact that digital music downloads dropped for the first time in the ten years since Apple first opened its iTunes Store, and that downloading music to own is being replaced by paying for music streaming services. But there was another area of the music industry that showed growth aside from streaming — vinyl record sales were up 32 percent versus 2012 while CDs, digital music sales, and album sales as a whole were all down for the year, according to data from Statista.
The firm also pointed out that between 2002 and 2012, vinyl sales skyrocketed 250 percent in the U.S. while total recorded music shipments were cut in half. A similar phenomenon of the resurgence of vinyl has been seen in the U.K. as well, with Telegraph reporting that LP sales for 2013 were at a fifteen-year high in the country.
There are lots of different theories about what could be causing the phenomenon — a hipster fad, a backlash against all things digital, the higher quality of sound offered by vinyl versus MP3s, the artwork on album sleeves and general desire for tangibility. In reality it’s probably some combination of all of the above, along with the fact that LPs are increasingly becoming the only option for getting a physical copy of a record. What’s clear is that vinyl sales have been steadily growing over the past decade, and a look at the best-selling records shows it’s not all about nostalgia.
In honor of Record Store Day, the holiday those of us who call rock ‘n’ roll our religion are looking forward to this weekend, here’s a list of the best-selling vinyl albums in the U.S. last year, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan seen by Digital Music News.
10. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
The first entry on the list goes to show that vinyl isn’t just for old albums or hipsters or folk revival fans. Justin Timberlake had a big year in 2013, coming back to the mic after spending time making movies in Hollywood. He actually released two records during the year The 20/20 Experience 1 of 2 and The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2. The first installment in The 20/20 Experience is not only the tenth highest-selling vinyl album of 2013, but was the best-selling album of the year overall, according to Billboard.
9. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Indie rock band The National is a perhaps more expected entry on the list than Timberlake. Indie rock fans are those more associated with choosing to buy vinyl rather than just streaming or purchasing albums digitally. The band’s sixth and latest album, Trouble Will Find Me, was well-received by critics and nominated for the Best Alternative Album Grammy award. A review from Pitchfork called Trouble the group’s “leanest and most aerodynamic record yet.”
8. The Lumineers, The Lumineers
The Lumineers’ self-titled debut is only the first of the records sprung out of the new folk movement to make it on this list. The first single from the record, “Ho Hey,” was a huge hit in 2012 into 2013. The group’s music is frequently categorized as folk and Americana influenced, using a variety of acoustic instruments and traditional folk structures. “The roots revival of the last few years has primed listeners for a new generation of rustic, heart-on-the-sleeve music — the kind that nods to tradition while setting off into uncharted territory,” reads the description of the band on their website. Fans of the roots revival are likely to buy vinyl as a way to embrace a similar nostalgia that bands like The Lumineers do.
7. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
The band Bon Iver’s debut album, 2007′s For Emma, Forever Ago, is mostly singer-songwriter-guitarist Justin Vernon’s brainchild, produced when he holed himself up in a cabin in Wisconsin. Vernon brought in other musicians to play sparingly on the tracks he recorded alone, and the result is a quiet, melancholy album that gained cult status after Pitchfork wrote a positive review of it, saying, “[Vernon’s] emotional exorcism proves even more intense for being so tentative.” The folksy sparseness of Bon Iver’s music make the band attract fans who might believe the tangible aspect of vinyl as well as the nostalgia it invokes are important to music consumption.
6. Queens of the Stone Age, … Like Clockwork
Hard-core rock ‘n’ roll is not absent from the list, either, as Queens of the Stone Age’s latest record was the sixth highest-selling of 2013. You don’t have to be into the folk revival and all its nostalgia to know that vinyl has a much better sound than digital, and vinyl was rock & roll’s first and best format. Clockwork features guest appearances from Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, U.N.K.L.E.’s James Lavelle, and even Elton John as well as some of frontman Josh Homme’s best writing. Pitchfork said that, while the album has the band’s “usual paint-stripping standards,” it is also “more polished and melodically focused” than the group’s previous work.
5. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
Mumford & Sons is the biggest band of the folk and roots music revival, having had massive success with its first two albums, both of which are on this list. The British group is heavily influenced by American folk music traditions. All four of the band’s core members — Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane — are multi-instrumentalists, playing a variety of acoustic instruments on their records. Sigh No More produced the hit single “Little Lion Man” and launched the group into an unexpected stardom.
4. Mumford & Sons, Babel
Coming in fourth place for the year is another Mumford & Sons record, which was even bigger than its debut, Sigh No More. Babel produced the massive hit “I Will Wait,” which found the folk band being played constantly on Top 40 radio. That popularity in addition to the group’s folk aesthetic has made Babel a top seller on vinyl. The record debuted at number one on the Billboard charts when it was released in the fall of 2012. Billboard also noted that the record was the biggest sales week for a rock album in four years.
3. Arcade Fire, Reflektor
When Arcade Fire released Reflektor last fall, and Rolling Stone called it “the best album Arcade Fire have ever made.” That’s certainly saying something, considering the massive amount of critical acclaim that’s been heaped on the group since 2004′s Funeral. The twelve-piece rock band is best listened to using the highest-quality means available to parse out the complicated melodies and instrumentation. The group also values tangible aesthetics and music as a form of community building, both ethos that would lead similarly-minded fans to choose vinyl over digital. Those beliefs have been reflected in the stadium tour supporting Reflektor, which has seen the band request that audience members wear either formal attire or a costume to re-create the feeling of a bizarre basement house party even in such large venues.
Indie darling Vampire Weekend released its third album, Modern Vampires of the City, to great acclaim in the spring of last year. Rolling Stone even named it Album of the Year for 2013, ranking it higher than Kanye West’s critically-adored release Yeezus. “In 2013, no other record mixed emotional weight with studio-rat craft and sheer stuck-in-your-head hummability like this one,” Rolling Stone said. The New York City-based group also took home a Grammy for Best Alternative Album for Modern Vampires of the City. Alternative music fans are stereotypical vinyl buyers, so it makes sense that one of the top-selling vinyl albums would also be the most critically acclaimed alternative album of the year.
1. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Fans of electronic dance music aren’t usually the ones who spring to mind when considering which music fan demographics are contributing to the resurgence of vinyl, but the latest album from secretive electronic duo Daft Punk was the best-selling vinyl record of 2013, selling 49,000 LPs. The hit single “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell and the critical acclaim heaped on the record certainly helped contribute to that figure, and overall Random Access Memories was a crossover hit for the EDM world. Daft Punk also cleaned up at the Grammys, performing a super funky version of “Get Lucky” and taking home four trophies, including Album of the Year.
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