Q Magazine

The Vinyl Revival Continues: LPs Now Used to Calculate Cost of Living

Physical albums have been reintroduced as an official means of calculating inflation for the first time since 1992.

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Vinyl is now an official indicator of how much less money you have in your pocket.

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After 32 years, vinyl records have once again been added to the virtual shopping basket used by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) to track prices and work out the cost of living and rate of inflation.

Vinyl was last included in the ONS’s “basket of goods and services” in 1992, when the best-selling albums of the year included Simply Red’s Stars, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous and R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People. Speaking about the return of vinyl, Matt Corder from the ONS said: "Often the basket reflects the adoption of new technology, but the return of vinyl records shows how cultural revivals can affect our spending.”

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vinyl record shop
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'Got anything by Taylor Swift, mate?'

Although four-fifths of recorded music is still consumed via streaming, the inclusion of vinyl records in the ONS basket is just the latest example of a huge resurgence in the format over the last few decades.

As reported by Q in December 2023, yearly UK sales of vinyl LPs have increased for 16 years in a row, and are currently at their highest level since 1990. According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), sales rose by 11.7 per cent in 2023 to a little under 6 million units. Taylor Swift's 1989 (Taylor's Version) was the year’s best-selling LP, followed by the Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds. Alongside new releases, “heritage” albums like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon as well as reissues like De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and OasisThe Masterplan were also standout sellers.

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vinyl record shoppers
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Vinyl sales have increased every year for the last 16 years in the U.K.

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Speaking to Q, Patrizia Leighton, Director at HMV, the UK’s largest vinyl retailer, which has just reopened its original flagship Oxford Street store in London after a four-year hiatus, said: “We’ve seen more people across the board buying vinyl, including younger people. Music has always been a way of finding your community, a way of exploring and expressing identity. We’ve all been through that phase of teenage and early-20s life where your people were those who shared your music taste. That’s as alive and kicking today as it has been since the invention of the teenager.”

BPI chief executive Dr. Jo Twist also commented. “Led by vinyl, the resurgence of physical product underlines the resilience of the UK music market at a time when streaming consumption continues to hit record levels,” she said. “It is giving people more choice than ever in how they enjoy their favorite music.”

vinyl lps
Source: Richard B. Levine/Newscom/The Mega Agency

The number of British independent record shops is higher now than at any point in the past decade.

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The latest boost for vinyl comes after the news that the number of independent record stores in the U.K. is higher today than it has been at any point in the past decade, with 461 indie stores across the country, 122 more than there were 10 years ago.

Drew Hill, Deputy CEO of Utopia Music, which oversees the U.K.’s largest distributors of physical music, told Q: “Record stores provide a unique space for music lovers to listen, collect and engage with their favorite artists in a way that taps into superfandom, and co-exists alongside digital streaming. It remains crucial that we continue to provide unbeatable service to thriving record retailers to maximise potential and ensure their bright future.”

The ONS’s basket of goods and services contains more than 700 items used to calculate monthly inflation figures. Also added to the virtual basket this year are air fryers and gluten free bread, while hand sanitizers and sofa beds have been removed.


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