the industry

Did Adele’s 30 Cause This Year’s Major Vinyl Delays?

She did not go easy on vinyl production. Photo: Adele/YouTube

Long before everyone knew the phrase “supply chain,” vinyl production was already suffering major delays. Back in 2020, before the height of pandemic closures, one of the only two plants in the world that makes lacquer discs (the base for a master plate used to press vinyl records), Apollo Masters Corporation, was destroyed in a fire. Then, as the pandemic ramped up, social distancing measures paused vinyl production for a time; now, with products across the supply chain taking longer to produce and ship, vinyl production is still suffering delays. “If you’re in a band and you DON’T finish recording a new album in the next 3 months the vinyl won’t come out until 2023,” singer-songwriter Laura Jane Grace recently posited on Twitter.

But there may be another culprit, too. Variety reported that Adele has pressed over 500,000 vinyl copies of her upcoming album 30, out November 19. As such, Variety noted that Adele did have to play by the rules of the delay and turn in her album six months before — in May, that is, which she even alluded to in a BBC Radio 1 interview. But that scheduling is likely to pay off, with Adele all but certain to break records (no pun intended!) for first-week vinyl sales. Indeed, Ed Sheeran recently said in an Australian radio interview that “Adele had basically booked out all the vinyl factories” — although he was reportedly able to turn in his album = in July and release it on vinyl on October 29.

Most artists have had to weather similar vinyl delays. The week before 30 arrives, Taylor Swift will reissue Red on a four-LP “Taylor’s Version” vinyl — a feat of scheduling that wasn’t actually possible for Swift’s ninth album, evermore, which arrived on vinyl nearly six months after its release. The same was true of artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Variety also noted, whose May 2021 album Sour hit vinyl months later. David Macias, head of indie label Thirty Tigers, told the magazine that a delayed vinyl release can impact sales by 30 to 40 percent. Ever the exception, when Swift’s delayed evermore vinyls shipped, she still moved enough copies to get back to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Meanwhile, for bands that rely on having vinyl to sell on tour, the setbacks require immense planning. For smaller artists, the advance can reportedly be closer to eight or nine months, in line with Grace’s tweet.

Despite the holdup, indies don’t sound too mad at the pop stars pressing so much vinyl. The New York Times noted that the larger issue with vinyl delays is the increased popularity of the format, which sold nearly twice as much in the first half of 2021 than it did in the first half of 2020. “Am I mad that Olivia Rodrigo sold 76,000 vinyl copies of her album? Not at all!” Ben Blackwell, who works at Jack White–founded Third Man Records, told the Times. “This is what I would have dreamed of when we started Third Man — that the biggest frontline artists are all pushing vinyl, and that young kids are into it.”

Did Adele’s 30 Cause This Year’s Major Vinyl Delays?