the vinyl revival looks set to continue

Is the Vinyl Revival Near its End?

With over a decade of consistent growth, vinyl is yet again the physical format of choice for music aficionados. But now with horror stories of ever-diminishing stocks of PVC, Covid complications and major labels pushing aside the independents for access to the handful of factories pressing records, we ponder if the the vinyl revival is dangerously close to its end…

the vinyl revival looks set to continue

“I’ve always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don’t really own the album.” Evangelised Jack White on NPR’s All Things Considered. “It’s not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive.” White’s sentiments are clearly mirrored by a large proportion of music fans, as vinyl record sales have seen consistent growth for nearly a decade, reaching a major high in 2020 with 4.8 million discs flogged – finally over-taking the ailing CD market for the first time in 35 years.

But increasing tales of PVC shortages, a dwindling number of factories, a Covid backlog and major label prominence resulting in endless delays leads us to wonder if we’re close to the hasty culmination of the so called ‘vinyl revival’. Is the medium’s unexpected return to the fore key to understanding why the antiquated and unprepared production chain is not just starting to crumble, but is on the precipice of collapse?


There’s a lot to worry about for musicians these days, with the collective reeling from the effects of the Covid pandemic often being conflated with the fraught navigation of post-Brexit international touring regulations. There’s also the daily conversations concerning the supremacy of streaming platforms that offer little financial share to anybody except the juggernauts of pop. For many new artists, physical releases – be they CDs (via Bandcamp, Discogs or direct) or, more than likely, vinyl –  provide a solid avenue for getting paid for the music they have made.

After being unviable for decades, the 2010s vinyl revival thankfully allowed the medium to once again become an attractive release pathway. But as the number of artists, large and small, putting out their LPs on the format has grown, the downscaled mechanics of vinyl manufacture have not.

According to, the global capacity for vinyl album production sits at 160 million, yet the amount of people ordering more than doubles that number. This has resulted in a hefty backlog, and wait times often taking 10 to 12 months to fulfil.

This situation has been further frustrated by the partial closure of American vinyl plants during the pandemic, which resulted in larger labels discovering that production costs are cheaper and easier in Europe. Adam Teskey, the Manufacturing Director at the UK’s premiere major pressing plant, The Vinyl Factory, tells us that “The biggest problem has to be the shortage of pressing capacity worldwide which has been created by a perfect storm of circumstances.” Says Teskey, “It would be naive to try and single out lack of resources as the single biggest contributor.” Adam is keen to point out that The Vinyl Factory’s key suppliers have worked tirelessly in keeping that most coveted of raw materials, PVC, in stock and readily available to fulfil their orders as timely as possible. But for other, smaller factories, the hiked cost of PVC is undeniably an additional burden, having leapt up by nearly 70% over the course of the pandemic.

In an interview with Investment Monitor, Adam Scrimshire, co-owner of independent label Wah Wah 45s, pins a lot of the blame for the ever-growing lead times on larger labels, clogging up the pipeline. “Big labels have flooded the vinyl market. In many cases they are pressing all manner of garbage for which there is no real demand, only then to dump them in bargain buckets.”

This statement is perhaps contradicted by the fact that the biggest selling vinyl release in 2020 was a re-press of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic Rumours. Not garbage by any means, but neither is it a record by a new act who may be relying on physical release revenue to sustain themselves. It is, though, surely an indicator that core demographics at the heart of the vinyl revival consist of many people who might just be starting their vinyl record collections, aren’t necessarily overly concerned with supporting new artists, and want to make sure that their ‘classic record’ checklists have been ticked off. This trend is surely influencing the decision-makers at the majors, and so – re-presses, special editions and remastered classics will invariably continue to be ordered. That being said, despite a lot ire being directed their way, it’s hard to find solid evidence for the claims that big labels are a major factor in these excessive hold-ups.

the vinyl revival at the end?

An interesting point, highlighted by DJ Mag, in an interview with vinyl-first label Wisdom Teeth, emphasises that in the world of dance music (where the vinyl format has never really gone away to the same extent that it needed a ‘revival’) new sounds and subgenres might be all the rage for now, but the longer lead times on vinyl runs mean that actual records might not be ready until summer 2022. Affecting the genre’s life-cycle. So, with these multiple, interacting issues justifying Teskey’s ‘perfect storm’ comment, just what can be done to catch up with the pace of vinyl demand?


Well, it wouldn’t hurt if those PVCs costs could come down. The big freeze that resulted when Winter Storm Uri hit Texas – the heartland of PVC manufacturing in early 2021, is certainly contributory, as it led to mass plant shutdowns. This limited supply – in league with the supply chain issues caused by the twin-heads of Covid and Brexit – needs to level out. Unfortunately, it shows no signs of slowing, but a report by Argus Media indicates that potential global easing may come from increased domestic production in both China and the US, while Europe still navigates a range of problems – “Ethylene is backwardated, energy costs remain inflated and European chlor-vinyls producers are still trying to implement surcharges.” They note.

A breather to help the backlog clear would certainly help, though it’s tantamount to impossible considering the booming levels of demand. What’s most clear is that more mechanical resource on offer, and more skilled workers in the industry, would certainly help things move quicker. In an interview with I News, Chris Marksberry, the head of the UK’s leading music manufacturing business Sound Performance indicated that the over-demand requires 40 per cent extra capacity to be fulfilled “There are not enough people in the right jobs.” Marksberry said, “The machines can’t be built quick enough. The staff aren’t trained. The oil-based compounds and the coloured pellets needed to make vinyl are in short supply.”

There are those rising to the challenge though, new UK based plant, Press on Vinyl in Middlesbrough has recently opened, and intends to give priority to smaller independent labels, with ambitious plans to press up to 100,000 records each month. More of that attitude please!


Even if the medium’s production chain issues do somehow get resolved, dare we ask how long the vinyl revival can maintain its ascendancy, and are we near the end of this unexpected second life?

The Vinyl Factory’s Adam Teskey feels that our beloved long-players are here to stay, for now. “Trying to crystal ball gaze is always a bit of folly if I’m being honest.” Adam tells us, “I’ve got it wrong too many times before. But, key indicators, such as the sales of hardware – i.e. turntables, amps, speakers etc – purchased at the full gamut of price ranges suggest the buying public are investing for the long haul and there does seem to be a greater emotional attachment to this music medium than any other. I suppose the proof is in the pudding and we’ve been written off before. Those crystal ball gazers got that very wrong didn’t they?”