Study shows streaming drives vinyl sales, but many records never see the needle

Streaming services may be steeped in controversy these days, but a new study shows that the newest format in the music paradigm may well be responsible for preserving one of the oldest.

A poll from ICM Unlimited research shows that over half of consumers purchasing a vinyl album recently heard the music on a streaming service first, proving that a huge number of the 17 million vinyl albums sold last year were spawned by music discovery via streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others, according to the BBC.

Related: Vinyl made more money than every free on-demand streaming service in 2015

The really wild part? It turns out, many of those records remain snugly nestled in their cardboard homes, unplayed.

Nearly half (48 percent) of people who said they had purchased a record on vinyl in the past month had yet to actually listen to it. In fact, seven percent of people who bought records didn’t even own a turntable — hard data that provides an easy explanation for all those pristine records you’ll find framed in the high-rent homes of Millennials these days.

“I have vinyls in my room but it’s more for decor. I don’t actually play them,” a Manchester student named Jordan Katende told the BBC.

With only 52 percent of those polled saying that they have a turntable they actually use, it turns out that many of those buying records are doing so as collectors. They get all the artwork in a tangible format, and a physical object from an artist they really only listen to digitally as something of a symbol of their love of the music.

It’s a phenomenon which is as outright baffling as it is impressive, considering the massive jump in vinyl sales which has occurred worldwide in the past several years.

“It’s so easy to listen to music now on YouTube or Spotify, I think we’re yearning for the times of our parents where you had to go out of your way to buy a song,” said U.K. student Duncan Willis to the BBC.

“I also think it’s important to support artists financially if you can,” added another 18 year-old student named Helena, “I like it if someone puts effort into making a release look special.”

As far as artists are concerned, they are likely just happy to see a sale that actually pays hard currency — revenues from services such as Spotify and YouTube are notoriously low on a per-play basis, so getting a larger chunk of the royalties for a vinyl record, played or not, is a welcome breath of fresh air.

And hey, as a bonus, all these well preserved records lying around means more music might make it through to eventually be played on the turntables of generations to come. Preferred format or not, some things just never go out of style.

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