Harry Styles is the current king of pop. And like decades of pop royalty before him, Styles is proving his worth by selling a lot of records… on vinyl.
On May 20, Styles dropped Harry’s House, which debuted at number one in the US. (“As It Was,” the album’s lead single, came out on April 1 and has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight consecutive weeks.) Harry’s House has already sold 377,000 copies in the US, including 219,000 vinyl records—about 58% of US sales—according to the music data firm Luminate, originally Nielsen Soundscan. That includes the biggest first week for a vinyl record since Soundscan started counting in 1991.
While Styles is an artist with commanding influence—his 2019 album, Fine Line, is still ranked No. 14 on the Billboard 200—the vinyl sales for Harry’s House are also a sign of the times. The music industry is transitioning away from pure digital ownership of music and toward a mix of online streaming and physical sales of new vinyl and CDs.
Vinyl has been resurgent for years, but 2021 marked the format’s biggest year in decades: Sales grew 51% and vinyl outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s, according to Luminate. CD sales are also on the rise, but sales of digital music—once synonymous with the $.99 iTunes single—are in freefall. In 2021, digital sales brought in only 4% of US music industry revenues, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Luminate says only 7% of Harry’s House sales so far have been digital.
That tracks overall increased interest in pop music on vinyl. Although the market share of rock vinyls decreased 4.1% between 2020 and 2021, pop vinyls were up 2.4%, and most of last year’s biggest vinyl sales were from pop acts. “It’s no secret that vinyl sales are on the rise right now,” Luminate CEO Rob Jonas wrote in an email. “But what’s interesting is how quickly pop music, specifically from high-profile artists targeted to Gen Z and young millennials, is selling on the format.”
What makes the vinyl trend particularly interesting is that vinyl records are expensive. Harry’s House goes for $37.99 at Target, giving super-fans a way to support their favorite artist and artists a way to move beyond paltry per-stream revenues on Spotify and its ilk. Among the downsides: Vinyl plants are still experiencing serious delays, especially now that it’s becoming a proven money-maker for pop acts and their labels.
“The record-breaking numbers for Styles’ new album last week are indicative that high-impact pop vinyl sales are only continuing upward as a trend,” Jonas said.