Over the past 10 years, prices for vinyl records have been steadily increasing.
Well, they were steadily increasing. Until last year.
Since the start of the pandemic, prices have actually shot up drastically. Buying a vinyl record now costs much more than it did just two years ago.
What is the reason for this?
Vinyl was always expensive. Why?
And why is it so much more expensive now?
Keep reading to learn exactly why vinyl records are so expensive these days.
- 1 Why Are Vinyl Records So Expensive?
- 1.1 How Supply And Demand Effects Vinyl Record Prices
- 1.2 What Is Happening Economically For Vinyl Records
- 1.3 The Cost Of Records Online Vs In A Retail Shop
- 1.4 What Is Coming Next
- 2 Why Vinyl Records Are Expensive: Final Thoughts
Why Are Vinyl Records So Expensive?
Vinyl records are so expensive for three different reasons:
- Supply and demand
- Pressing costs
- We are in a unique situation right now.
I realize this is not a very satisfying answer, and there is some nuance here to get into. However, it is true and verifiable which you will see!
How Supply And Demand Effects Vinyl Record Prices
The way economics work is that the more desire that exists for an item (demand), the more the manufacturers that create the item can charge to obtain it. This is a simplified version of what market demand is.
The more of an item that exist in the marketplace, the harder the manufacturers that create it need to work to get your sale. This causes competition on the supply side, lowering prices to compete with all the other suppliers to get your money. This is the cliff’s notes of how supply works.
When these two forces, supply and demand, are opposite one another (lots of supply and little demand, or lots of demand and limited supply) the market changes, and the price for the item can change dramatically.
When they are both on the positive side (lots of demand and lots of supply) you have a hot market, and the dramatic price drops you see in the market when supply is high are somewhat negated by the overwhelming demand.
What Is Happening Economically For Vinyl Records
Right now, we are experiencing an unprecedented vinyl record revival. Since about 2007, vinyl records have come back into fashion and they continue to rise in popularity year over year.
It is quite insane when you see the spike in demand for vinyl drawn out in a chart. You can see a great simple chart here.
Partially because of this outrageous demand, vinyl is experiencing a never-before-seen price spike. The crazy demand we have in the market is not the whole story, though.
The Record Pressing Industry Supply And Labor Shortage
Since the end of 2019 into 2020, there has been a severe shortage of labor and materials for pressing plants that create vinyl records.
Due to the global pandemic, many people were laid off (or getting sick) all up and down the supply chain. Prices for raw materials went up, and labor prices went up (fewer workers means they cost more to hire).
As a result, lead times for production are currently 3 to 6 months to get a record pressed.
This does not even take into account the shipping issues the entire industry experienced last year (and continues to experience to a lesser extent today). The pandemic hit the shipping industry extremely hard, raising costs to ship vinyl records and everything else, and limiting workers.
And since much of the production has moved overseas, thanks to rising costs, the shipping problems have an even larger effect. Of course, moving overseas has other effects, too. Other countries use materials that are actually banned in the US and Europe, leading to vinyl records being toxic.
How Industry Pressing Costs Affect Supply
These issues mean that independent artists and smaller labels are less likely to press records. The cost to press is extremely high, and the time to get your record into stores is outrageous. How much does it cost to make a record? That article has all the answers.
As a result of these forces, there are fewer records to buy, especially from independent artists and smaller labels. On top of this, the demand has gone through the roof during the pandemic, while everyone was stuck at home ordering records online.
The Cost Of Records Online Vs In A Retail Shop
Now you can see there are a few different forces at play here on the supply side. A shortage of supply to make records, a diminished demand to press records due to high costs, and a frenzy of people buying records with little to no regard for the price.
Sales of records online have never even been close to what they were in 2020 when they increased 30% in one year (this is unprecedented). You can read a bit more about this here.
During the pandemic online sales of vinyl records far outpaced the sales in retail shops, as more and more people stayed home. This caused many local record stores to sell their records online, on sites like discogs.com and others like eBay, just to keep the lights on.
Where we are right now in the pandemic (it is mid 2021 at the time of this writing), what is happening in the market for vinyl albums is crazy, but it makes sense when you understand it.
Online Record Prices
Right now on Discogs, the most popular vinyl record e-commerce website and the one I recommend the most when someone asks me where to buy vinyl records online, the prices for almost any vinyl record are inflated quite a bit.
There are some records I have been watching carefully, hoping for a decrease in prices so I can buy them. But they are not coming down yet. I thought now that things are opening up, the prices would drop, but I am not seeing that yet.
When buying online you always expect to pay a bit more in normal times, because you must consider shipping costs. Even considering shipping, we are far from normal when you compare the price of records online vs retail shops.
It is more expensive to buy a record online right now, with most of the records I have been buying costing 22 to 30 bucks. Condition plays a role as you know, but as a rule, buying online is more expensive because there are still way more buyers buying online than in retail shops.
If you are looking to sell a record yourself, make sure you know the market price for it. You will need the exact release year. We have an article detailing how to tell what year a vinyl record was made.
Retail Shop Record Prices
Every local record shop is different, and they all have their own operating costs and pricing tiers. All things considered, you can find records for considerably less at retail stores right now.
For example, I wanted to buy the repress of Tom Petty’s classic ‘Wildflowers; and I did some digging to see where I could find the best deal. A local shop near me wanted 27 for a still sealed brand new copy, and the best I could find online was 39 plus shipping.
What Is Coming Next
I predict as the world gets back to some sense of sanity, and the supply chain gets back on its feet, we will be able to buy record players and vinyl records again at a more reasonable price.
I am not sure if the demand will go down, though. If it was a fad, it would have died out in a couple of years. It has been a solid 14 or so years that demand for vinyl has been on the rise.
Right now, you are lucky to find an album you really want for under 25 bucks which was outrageous when I started buying records.
I was hoping to see the inflated market start to decompress by this summer, and there are some tiny signals it may. But as we sit here now, it is still a crazy inflated bubble out there in the vinyl record industry.
Why Vinyl Records Are Expensive: Final Thoughts
The pandemic changed everything. It disrupted global supply chains for almost every product and vinyl records are no exception. The result was a steep increase in prices.
Vinyl has always been pricey, but what we’ve seen over the past year and a half is insane. Both the records and turntables are more expensive.
Of course, you should not buy the cheapest record player you can find, in order to keep costs down. That makes no sense, given how much your vinyl collection will cost. You might as well get at least a decent player to play them on. Learn how to choose a record player that actually delivers the goods.
Personally, I have drastically cut back my vinyl purchases and now have a long list of albums I want to get. But I am going to wait until prices come down again. It will happen, but it looks like it will take quite a while still. I am hoping I’ll be able to get some better deals in 2023.
What about you? Have you continued to buy albums at the current inflated prices, or are you also holding off on making a lot of purchases in the hopes that prices will come back to normal soon?
The reason I searched out this article is because I keep seeing 12″ singles in the $40-$60+ range. I go to the list of sellers in Discogs, and there are dozens and dozens of copies available. I search the completed sales history, and lo and behold, the actual value of the record is around $15-$20 on average, and even that is high due to a couple recent sales in the $30-$40 range skewing the median sales cost.
This says not everyone is paying whatever they will charge. It says there are a lot of greedy people out there over pricing and waiting for one or two people that want to splurge on that one item. If they want to sell anything, they have to wait a while and with many other sellers in the same range, or stop being so greedy and reduce their prices. No one wants to be the first to do that, so it’s going to take some time for the sellers to catch up to the fact nothing is moving quickly if they over price.
I find it particularly annoying that I won’t get to buy obscure music most people typically don’t care about, because it’s jacked up 300% just because it’s a vinyl record. Two years ago I could get it for under $10.
matthew cohen says
Over the past 4 years I’ve purchased about 2,000 records, having once again gotten back into vinyl after not having a collection since early 2000’s. So I started with not a single record. Also, I started collecting in earnest, if not a first press, the next best issue I could afford, or was willing to pay. I set a $2200 limit. So about 30% $20-$35, about 20% $75-$200, and the rest falling in the middle. Most are at
Least VG+ all around, so they are more than holding their value: any random copy I check on Discogs has usually doubled in value, across the board. Records that cost $100-$150 in 2019, some people are asking $$300 to even as much as $500 or the random $1000(one of my third state, mostly in tact Velvet Underground and Nico – one greedy seller wants $3000 – and I scored it originally for $50!) anyway, I think people are PUSHING the market, just going for it and asking clearly outrageous prices. Eventually, I think they will relent, as with the Beatles Butcher cover situation – one guy finally gave up on $900 and still can’t sell it at about $400. But what was said above is true, but add in a whole lot of GREED. According my collection is worth about $130,000, if I got what ever single record is worth.
Here in the uk they are on average £25 but I had to pay £45 for a copy of Gary Numan when the sky came down blue vinyl.
David Harvey says
It’ll be good when vinyl record factories can reopen with their workers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and can resume their assembly lines, which obviously includes remanufacturing of records. When I rang one of my favourite record shops in Sydney called Red Eye Records, the guy who spoke to me on the phone did say that much of their vinyls for ordering have been placed on back order – the vinyls in general, that is.
Lots of record shops have most of their out of stock vinyls on backorder, so it’s good to know that you can have vinyls placed on backorder.
I just searched for an answer to this question and found this article. I was noticing as i flipped through some of my records seeing the difference in prices. How an Oh Sees album was 8 bucks a few years back, is now 30-35 bucks. A Dinosaur Jr album is nearly 60. These aren’t limited editions either. I see prices being the same across the board at record shops, and if i am desperate i can find a better deal online, but risk damage in shipping. So far I have never had an issue. I buy records to play and enjoy, and not just collect, so some of the prices do get me nervous to spin them, even when i’m careful with my handling. I don’t want record collecting to become elitist. It’s a great rewarding hobby. Especially if you invest in a good setup. Seeing all the issues with supply chain, and just supply and demand does make me fearful these prices are the new normal and may continue to creep up. Paying over 20 for a new pressing thats not 180gram is ridiculous, but what do you do? You get picky about what you think is worthy of being on vinyl, and then just Spotify everything else.
It is sickening to see the price of supposedly analog recording to be this high. What is even more disgusting is these recordings are from digital masters. There are no longer any “new analog masters” being produced (cheaper). These recordings are remixed to have that so called “warm feeling”, “non-compressed” audio. Let us not forget the editing of each track. Compare your vinyl to a CD/ Blu-ray of the same title.
I get it. The larger jackets, sleeves, and media that can be touched. This media degrades overtime. Even if you are a obsessed with cleaning, buying sleeves that are supposed to protect records, when in reality causes Micro scratches to the vinyls’ surface Don’t forget those clear jacket covers that in time will turn yellowish over time. A complete headache.
Another headache is the pressings. Dealings with warped LP’s, excessive surface noise, labels applied off center, and a cheaper/ recycled quality vinyl being used. Are they including Carbon in the vinyl mix as they did in the 70’s for new records? I must have had to exchange half a dozen records due to pits in the vinyl. I am referring to brand new albums.
Even prior to the pandemic, the costs were high with absolutely no improvements to the media. Greed? You bet! Greed based on an addiction.
I admit, I too got addicted. Went out a purchased a $600.00 turntable. Loaded with features. VTA (Vertical Tracking Alignment, Counter Weight adjustment for VTF( Vertical Tracking Force) w/ Strobe light, Anti-Skate, Pitch Control three speeds, “S” shaped tone arm, with the hopes that by using this device will The longevity of my collection.
With that said, I refuse to spend money on records until the quality improves.
Sorry, I have better things to spend my money on.
Patrick Wesley says
To be honest, as much as I’d like to see vinyl get cheaper, I sort of understand why they’re expensive too. I mean, there are a ton of steps to reaching a fully finished vinyl. And even if there are enough workers, I’m pretty sure each step requires a different set of skills. So, more skill = more workers = more cost.
Plus, there’s the whole cost of storing the records, which probably jumped high recently, before selling them. So, frankly, I only see it getting more and more expensive rather than cheaper in the future. Hopefully, this year will make it a liiittle more favorable for us old folks.
Fred Sauvé says
I completely stopped buying records and am selling my most expensive records to collectors on Discogs. Why keep records I can fetch 100-1000$ sitting at my place while some stupid kid/collector (usually without a turntable) wants my records? Take them and pay me the big bucks. I also quit concerts, band merch, fanclubs everything that is only made to grab cash from fans I AM OUT. It was fun for 20 years but the industry, big and independant is now just about cash. Some band just told me they made no money selling their double LP 40$. Well too bad grandpa metal guy in Norway it’s back to your day job and stop f**cking fans in the arse. The worst of the worst are the Norwegian black metal labels/bands that are all making new records EVEN if they suck they only do it for the new kids on the scene and the money. They reissue everything from the sound when Euronymous first flushed the toilet or ground coffee and make a box set, a book, and 25 coloured LP’s.
SICK SICK SICK
David Richard says
I definitely understand the frustration.