The supply chain crisis, explained by Adele

Emily Stewart in Vox:

The supply chain comes for everyone, including Adele. Or maybe it’s Adele who’s coming for the supply chain — specifically, the vinyl supply chain.

The British songstress released her latest album, 30, on Friday to much global fanfare, and she’s expected to do major worldwide sales (at a moment when physical music sales are rare). There’s been speculation that Adele’s big splash may also have implications for the music business, and not necessarily all good ones. Sony Music reportedly ordered some 500,000 copies of vinyl records for the album’s release, potentially putting a squeeze on an already tight supply chain. With Adele pressing all those records, there has been speculation that she’s crowding out some space for others. At the very least, the issue is drawing some attention to a real crunch in the music industry. “All of these bigger artists are selling more records on vinyl, and all of them together are clogging up the plants, whereas a few years ago, vinyl was probably second-tier for these artists or even third-tier,” said Mike Quinn, head of sales at ATO Records, an independent record label based in New York City. But he’s not worried too much. “We’ve not had any plant turn us down saying, ‘Oh, we have too many Adele records.’”

Vinyl has seen a renaissance over the past decade or so, with demand surging even more during the pandemic. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl sales grew by 28.7 percent in value from 2019 to 2020 to $626 million. Last year also marked the first year vinyl exceeded CDs in total revenue since the 1980s. Manufacturers have struggled to keep up. “Vinyl’s been surging, or resurging, from the dark ages since probably 2007, 2008. It just did so under the radar,” said Brandon Seavers, co-founder and CEO of Memphis Records, a vinyl manufacturer. “The pandemic hit, and everything exploded.” Adele isn’t at fault for the vinyl supply chain’s problems. She, like all artists, wants to sell a lot of records, and even without her, the industry has been facing delays and setbacks and struggling to keep up with skyrocketing demand for quite some time. As Shamir, one Philadelphia musician, put it in an interview with NPR, “Adele is not the culprit” but also “is not helping.”

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