Discogs' Sales Grew 30% Amid Pandemic Shutdowns

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The online music marketplace has been faring well as shoppers and record stores have turned to the web.

Online music marketplace Discogs' global sales in the first half of 2020 were up nearly 30% over the same period last year, according to the company's mid-year report released Friday (Aug. 28). The jump, which represents record-high sales for the platform, began just a week after the coronavirus pandemic forced the majority of physical record stores to shut their doors beginning in mid-March.

“We've been a lifeline for the independent retailer for sure,” says Jeffrey SmithDiscogs director of communications and partnerships, who adds that some record stores on the platform “have given us word that without Discogs, they were definitely gonna be hurting or quite possibly [have to] shut their doors.”

The increases outlined in the report are striking if not entirely surprising, given that the widespread closure of physical retail outlets around the world gave many consumers little choice but to make their physical music purchases online. In addition to the 30% year-over-year jump in orders -- between January and June, Discogs facilitated nearly 4.3 million of them -- buyers purchased more than 7.6 million pieces of physical music, an increase of 33.83% over 2019.

Sales increases were nearly uniform across formats. Vinyl saw a 33.27% year-over-year jump with over 5.8 million records sold, while CD sales increased 33.27% with over 1.6 million units sold and cassette tapes jumped 30.52%, representing sales of more than 137,000 units.

Sellers have been more active on the platform, too. Between January and June, more than 798,000 submissions were added to the Discogs marketplace, up 18.77% year-over-year. This increase was also more or less consistent across formats, with cassette submissions up 21.74%, CDs up 16.94% and vinyl up 16.55% over that timeframe. Even digital files and other non-physical format submissions have been robust, spiking 92% over the same period last year.

Part of the increase in submissions was due to Discogs’ efforts to support independent record stores during the pandemic. In March, the company refunded the order fees for nearly 800 record stores already on the platform; after extending the same offer to new users, the company onboarded almost 600 new retail outlets. By the end of the April, Discogs had waived nearly $4 million in fees.

As stated in the report, the influx of new sellers is expected to be mirrored by a long-term increase in buying activity, "as new customers become part of the Discogs community and buying habits shift for the long term.” It’s a sentiment Smith echoes, though he maintains that the in-store experience will remain an important experience for many record buyers even after the pandemic dies down.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to replace being in a record store,” Smith says. “There’s so many things that you miss by not going into your local shop: Being a part of that local community, talking to the people that work there that know you well enough to turn you on to a new record…people that are into the physical format and collecting are in it because of those experiences.”

That said, Smith does expect physical record stores to begin shifting online more and more, and perhaps more quickly than they otherwise would have because of the pandemic -- a change that would doubtless be good news for Discogs. “I think they're gonna definitely look to increase their online footprint so that they're prepared [for something like this in the future],” he says.

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