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Christmas Gift Guide
Digital Media

Arctic Monkeys and Pink Floyd spinning record sales of vinyl records

Two distinct types of music lovers are buying LPs in numbers not seen since the 1990s.

alex-turner-arctic-monkeys-onstage.jpg
Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, seen here onstage in Rio, points the way for vinyl. Raphael Dias/Getty Images

Hoary old rockers like Pink Floyd and young upstarts like Arctic Monkeys are driving a resurgence in popularity for the humble vinyl record -- and for the first time in nearly two decades, more than 1 million vinyl records have been sold in the UK.

Vinyl is riding a groove it hasn't reached since the heady days of Britpop. The last time a million records were sold was 1996, in the days before iTunes and digital downloads, when all music came in physical form.

Vinyl still sells only a fraction of the numbers of songs and albums bought digitally: Pink Floyd's latest opus "The Endless River" shifted 6,000 units in its first week, but that was enough to make it the fastest-selling vinyl release since 1997.

Vinyl is popular enough that the Official Chart Company has plans for a weekly vinyl chart. "Only five years ago this business was worth around £3 million a year," the Chart Company's Martin Talbot told the BBC. "This year it's going to be worth £20 million."

This year's best-selling record is "AM" by Arctic Monkeys, pictured above. The bands doing well on vinyl signal the two distinct demographics of vinyl lovers: old-school record buyers continuing to buy vinyl as they always have, and a younger generation that appreciates the physical artifact as a reaction against the ephemeral nature of digital music.

The older demographic is made clear by the presence in the vinyl charts of heritage acts such as David Bowie, Status Quo, Bryan Ferry and the Floyd. Newer acts to be successful also tend to be rock acts, including Jack White, Temples and Royal Blood.

It's easy to see the appeal of vinyl records: the physical object comes complete with giant artwork, the nuances of which have been lost in the thumbnail age. Vinyl fans claim a warmth to the sound of records that isn't found on other formats. And there's the fragility of vinyl, making a record and the music it contains something to be cherished.

Last month, Apple noted that sales of digital music from the iTunes store have declined in the past year.