Fans want vinyl to go green as record sales rise

8 black and multi-coloured vinyl records laid overlapping in two rows.

The number of people listening to their favourite music on vinyl is on the rise, but research into what they really want from the record business reveals an industry that is missing a beat on sustainability.

A recent survey conducted by Key Production, the UKs largest broker for physical music production and a Certified B Corp, has shed light on the increasing demand for environmentally friendly physical music, particularly vinyl, among music consumers.

The research revealed that over two thirds of vinyl buyers (69%) indicated they would be encouraged to buy more if the records were made with a reduced environmental impact.

The findings also show that the vast majority of regular vinyl customers (77%) are willing to pay a premium for reduced impact products, signalling a significant market demand for eco-friendly alternatives. 

Consumers do not need to feel the weight

Variegated grey vinyl record mostly removed from sleeve featuring image of trees, with name Llyr Biome visible on label, against green background.

Moreover, the survey provided some compelling insight into how the value of heavyweight vinyl is actually perceived by consumers, with the results probably proving a surprise to some.

Typically, 180g vinyl is marketed as the more valuable product, due to its increased heft and perceived richer audio quality. Due to its heavier weight, though, extra energy is needed for production and distribution, impacting everything from pressing to shipping.

Interestingly, however, the research from Key Production found that 83% of general respondents either do not perceive heavyweight vinyl to be more valuable than standard, or are unsure.

In other words, consumer demand and industry supply seem out of step.

Clear steer calls for record industry rethink

Overall, the suggestion is that the results of the survey could underscore a shift in consumer preferences towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly options in the music industry.

The steer is clear, says Key Production CEO Karen Emanuel, who will be presenting the findings at The Great Escape festival taking place in Brighton, on the south coast of England, this week:

“As consumer awareness of environmental issues continues to grow, it is evident that there is a substantial market opportunity for eco-friendly vinyl records.

The feedback around the 180g record format, in particular, calls for a mindset shift, adds Emanuel:

“While this is often seen by the industry as a more sought-after product, this survey shows that the industry is actually getting it wrong as consumers aren’t valuing the weight as they think.

High quality records can be made at 140g, and this slightly lower weight can have a hugely positive impact across the whole supply chain.”

New releases make sustainability a hot topic

Variegated blue vinyl record, with white card stating 'Climate neutral product' on top, pictured against green background.

The results come at a time when the sustainability of vinyl production is a hot topic.

Due for release tomorrow (17 May 2024), the newest album from Billie Eilish, Hit Me Hard and Soft, has been made with a clear sustainability plan in place. Vinyl copies are being pressed to either reground or bio-attributed vinyl and all the packaging is made from recycled materials.

Overall, vinyl continues to grow in popularity in 2024, with recent data from the Official Charts Company showing the combination of Record Store Day (20th April) and Taylor Swift’s latest album delivered the highest weekly sales in 30 years.

As sales rise, so too must sustainability, with production driving down environmental impacts, says Strategy and Sustainability Director at Key Production Group, John Service:

“What we’re seeing is a consumer shift towards a demand for physical music made with reduced impact. Vinyl can be made more sustainably with new compounds which replaces the fossil-fuel ingredients, and packaging can be made with completely recycled materials.

In the vanguard for change, Key Production is using its network across the supply chain, as well as the wider industry (from customers to representative bodies), to push for improvements in sustainability within physical music production for vinyl, CDs, cassettes and DVDs.

Initiatives being spearheaded by the team at Key range from creating a supplier forum to share best practice (around topics such as energy efficiencies in manufacturing and solutions for on-site renewables), to encouraging the uptake of renewable-attributed PVC compounds for its clients.

From B Corp certification to the Brit Awards

Established in 1990, Key Production Group offers end-to-end manufacturing solutions in vinyl, CD, DVD, Blu-ray, cassettes, print and bespoke packaging.

Striving to do so as sustainably as possible, the Group works with major and independent record labels as well as individual artists in music, media and corporate sectors.

The London-based pioneer is best known for its work with artists such as Nick Cave, Alt-J, IDLES, Little Simz, Ezra Collective, PJ Harvey and Raye, on her Brit Award-winning album.

Founded as Key Production, over time the organisation has been expanding and enriching its expertise and influence by setting up in-house departments for its clients. Key Production Group now comprises Key Production, Think Tank Creative, Breed Media and MODO Design, with offices in London, Sheffield and Brighton. In 2023, Key Production Group achieved a B Corp certification

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