Move over, hipsters: Data for 2017 suggests that vinyl isn’t just for those whose favorite line before telling someone their favorite band is, “Oh, yeah, you probably haven’t heard of them before.”

According to the 2017 U.S. Music Consumption Report, compiled by the analytics company BuzzAngle, the year saw a growth in vinyl sales of 20 percent. Nielson’s year-end report called 2017’s vinyl sales an “all-time Nielsen-era high volume” since the company began tracking music sales in 1991. According to Nielsen, 14 percent of all physical album sales were vinyl, while BuzzAngle had it at 10 percent.

And the top-purchased albums across the country? That may come as a surprise to those who think of vinyl buyers as avant-garde types.


  1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — The Beatles
  2. “Abbey Road” — The Beatles
  3. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1” — Various Artists
  4. “÷” — Ed Sheeran
  5. “Back to Black” — Amy Winehouse
  6. “Purple Rain” — Prince and the Revolution
  7. “Legend” — Bob Marley and The Wailers”
  8. “The Dark Side of the Moon” — Pink Floyd
  9. “La La Land” soundtrack — Various Artists
  10. “Thriller” — Michael Jackson


  1. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1” — Various Artists
  2. “Abbey Road” — The Beatles
  3. “÷” — Ed Sheeran
  4. “Back to Black” — Amy Winehouse
  5. “Legend” — Bob Marley and the Wailers
  6. “La La Land” soundtrack — Various Artists
  7. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — Beatles
  8. “The Dark Side of the Moon” — Pink Floyd
  9. “Thriller” — Michael Jackson
  10. “Rumours” — Fleetwood Mac

“Oh,” said Neal Becton, owner of Som Records in Washington’s Cardozo neighborhood, pausing briefly with puzzlement when he heard that the 2014 soundtrack, “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1,” sold 64,175 copies nationwide and was named BuzzAngle’s top vinyl purchase of 2017. “Okay, wow.” He thinks he only sold one of them last year.

When Becton heard that Nielson’s top two albums were the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Abbey Road,” with sales of 72,000 and 66,000 respectively, that made a bit more sense.

Becton pointed out that big sales are sometimes the result of albums being reissued — and “Sgt. Pepper” was reissued in 2017 in honor of the album’s 50th anniversary. A reissue is when an album is rereleased, sometimes with additions or new art to accompany the original album.

“I understand the interest in reissues for people getting into vinyl for the first time,” Becton, who left The Washington Post 13 years ago to start Som Records. He noted that many albums on the lists were classics, including offerings from David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

Experts at other area record stores weren’t as surprised by the “Guardians of the Galaxy” result. Jonathan Druy, vinyl manager at Songbyrd Music House & Record Cafe in Adams Morgan, said that in a world where vinyl’s popularity is increasing so rapidly, consumers turn toward Barnes & Noble and Amazon — and that’s what national charts reflect.

“A lot of those kinds of trends tend not to be reflected in indie record stores like us,” Druy said.

Like Becton, Druy said that his store sells a great deal of classics. More often, however, customers lean toward hip-hop and rhythm and blues, he said. Songbyrd’s top-selling album for the year was “Nina Simone Sings the Blues.” Following that were albums from two iconic music icons the world recently lost: Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” both reissues in 2016.

Druy echoed Becton in emphasizing the influence of reissues. For instance, a couple years ago, when Warner Brothers reissued a bunch of albums from the Cure, “people snapped them up, of course,” he said. “It doesn’t mean there was a surge in popularity.”

“Thriller” and “The Dark Side of the Moon,” which were on both year-end lists, were both reissued within the last two years.

“ ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ we’ll never stop selling. It’s been in the top 10 practically since it came out in the ‘70s,” Druy said. “It’s kind of that perennial thing. Same with Fleetwood [Mac] and ‘Thriller.’ ”

Both lists have only one album — Ed Sheeran’s “÷” — that was released in 2017.

Druy said he was surprised to see that album was so high, as Songbyrd has not sold many Sheeran albums, although they do carry it. However, if this year’s buyers are mainly “just getting into vinyl,” he said, it makes sense.

While Rob Norton said his store, Hill & Dale Records in Georgetown, also did not sell many Sheeran albums, the store’s first order of Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” — which he would argue appeals to the same audience as Sheeran — sold out almost immediately.

“For some people, they never stepped away from vinyl, so they’ve always been buying albums that are ‘mainstream,’” Norton said, countering the stereotype that only hipsters listen to vinyl. “But for a few years, it was more specialized and people who were coming to buy records were buying more independent, less well-known, indie artists.”

The vinyl resurgence has been happening over the past decade, and there are many reasons for it, including the desire for a fuller sound than on streaming services; the physical copy of the album artwork; and the way it encourages you to play the album from start to finish, as the artist wanted it to be played.

Norton said his sales have risen every year since he started the store in 2014. The resurgence allowed him to keep adding to his vinyl collections, as reissues and new releases are increasingly available on vinyl to meet heightened demand.

It also allowed him to fulfill a lifelong dream, he said: “I’ve always wanted to open a record store and when the opportunity presented itself, I did it.”

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