Business magnate Richard Branson was once quoted as saying, “Apple killed the music stores.” Branson also has predicted that there will be no record stores left in the world in 2020.
Is he right? Maybe.
The founder of the Virgin Group of companies, including Virgin Megastores, Branson cashed in on the record business in the 1970s, designing record stores that fostered an environment of discovery instead of simple business. Simply put, Branson knows the record business.
Though Virgin Megastores shut its doors in most countries, U.S. included, in 2009, the record industry is doing better than it has since the rise of the CD. So why does Branson think record stores are doomed to die soon?
Athens is a microcosm of today’s record business. It’s almost too perfect to be true, but it is.
Filled with two of the primary demographics that buy records — young adults and middle-aged hippies — Athens seems like it should have a thriving record store, bustling with life.
According to Billboard, 14.32 million records were sold in the U.S. in 2017 — that’s up 9 percent from 2016. For 12 years running, vinyl sales have increased. The best-selling album in 2017 sold 72,000 copies.
If sales are up, what’s the problem?
Those statistics don’t tell the whole story. Vinyl sales represented just 8.5 percent of all albums sales in 2017. While vinyl sales increased by 9 percent in 2017, on-demand streaming increased by 59 percent.
In regards to the music, hip-hop has taken over; its demand increased by 72 percent. Rock, meanwhile, remains the primary genre purchased on vinyl. That best-selling album was the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a 50-year old album. And that 72,000 sales number pales to the 2.5 million copies Sgt. Pepper sold within just three months of its release in 1967.
Vinyl’s not doomed, though — the numbers make that clear, no matter what Branson said. Instead, vinyl is a niche, something for collectors, audiophiles and standard music nerds.
Is vinyl going to restore itself as the most popular form of music? No, and it won’t ever come close.
But will record stores disappear altogether? Probably not.
They’ll continue existing for the niche market, for those who get chills while flipping through stacks of records.
Alex McCann is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you think record stores are doomed? Let Alex know by tweeting him @alexrmccann.