The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is severe and hits the vinyl industry hard with a decreasing demand, closed stores, limited production, and transport bans. However, a quick survey amongst Vinyl Alliance members shows the commitment and resilience of the industry.
Broken supply chain and closed stores
Many businesses are suffering right now, the vinyl record industry is no different. Even though many brick and mortar stores divert to online sales, sales are expected to drop heavily. Especially since Amazon, one of the biggest vinyl record dealers has temporarily moved its focus away from non-essential products.
While the impact on retail is strong, most pressing plants are still up and running. “We work at 75% capacity, mainly because of backlog orders,” says Michal Sterba, CEO of GZ Media “but new orders are down by 50%”. The situation is similar to MPO in France and is most likely the same for pressing plants worldwide. Labels are still committed to vinyl and postpone new releases rather than cancel them.
The biggest issue is the broken supply chain. Lockdown of air travel and reduced transport capacities led to a sharp increase in shipping rates and delays. Transport between pressing plants, dealers and end customers is becoming expensive, even if there is demand as Robert Morgan-Males, CEO of Audio-Technica Europe explains. “We have an increased demand for certain products such as headphones and headsets, and still ship some orders for turntables and cartridges, however delivery across boarders is either too unpredictable or simply not possible at all. Managing incoming shipments is also challenging.”
Loyal fans support artists and stores
The Vinyl business has one big advantage: it is blessed with loyal fans, otherwise, the format could not have survived first the rise of the CD and then of music streaming. The current crisis proves this once more. Collectors use their time at home to re-organise records, discover hidden gems or simply to give their disks a thorough cleaning. Others dig up old record players in their attic and refurbish them.
Christen Nielsen, CEO from Ortofon explains the unfaltering support “Vinyl is a great way for people to help their favourite artist, especially if they had to cancel a concert or tour. And even if they cannot afford to buy new records, they find other ways. For example, there are online challenges such as presenting your most beloved record and the store you bought it in. A great way to show the artist and the store some love and give them free publicity.”