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from Forbes Magazine

by Mark Beech

The Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd are leading artists getting a boost as music buyers get physical in preference to digital streaming and downloads. A survey done for EBayEBAY -0.14% may make the world think again about the death of vinyl and CDs.

The Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling have done the same for physical books and DVDs in the face of competition from electronic readers and players.

The survey comes as a surprise after reports about the digital revolution, with many teenagers said never to have bought a physical album. To the contrary, the new findings show that 52% of consumers prefer physical formats and it is 18 to 24 year olds who are actually powering the resurgence.

 While the data uses information from EBay U.K. and a survey of buyers, similar patterns are likely to be reflected elsewhere. The finding is that “Generation Phygital” is made up of younger ‘digital natives’ who have a passion for collecting and like “showing off” book, DVD/Blu-rays, CDs, vinyl records, or video games. About a quarter of this group buys books to display them as social-media “shelfies.” Nearly two thirds have bought a ‘real’ book in the last year, 56% purchased a DVD and just over half a video game. One in four of them has bought a vinyl record in that time, with many saying that they buy vinyl once a month. As much as 83% of this age group has bought at least one item of physical media in the last year. That is a higher proportion than the 76% across all age groups.

EBay said that classic albums on vinyl have been in high demand, with The Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd the biggest artists. The Beatles clearly get a boost as buyers want to buy their LPs with artwork specifically done for 12-inch sleeves, such as the reissued Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Bowie’s resurgence after his death has drawn people back to his work. Both he and Pink Floyd have been the subject of box sets which make ideal holiday-season presents or stocking fillers. EBay says demand peaks in the first Sunday in December.

Best-selling fiction books include Rowling’s novels, George Orwell’s 1984, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Fantasy and DVD/Blu-ray box sets remain popular, such as HBO’s Game of Thrones, while physical video games include Crash Bandicoot and GTA (Grand Theft Auto).

eBay UK

eBay physical media at a glance infographic

The survey suggests 63% of people still read physical books, 60% listen to CDs, 54% watch films or TV on DVD or Blu-ray, 19% listen to vinyl and 31% play a computer game on disc or cartridge. The average buyer is said to own 260 physical media items: 91 CDs, 88 books, 63 DVDs/Blu-rays and 18 video games. One in 10 people own more than 300 books.

The news is topical after U.K.-based retailer Sainsbury’s said last month that it was launching its own record label to ride the vinyl wave.

Meanwhile eBay has stepping up its challenge to Amazon, aiming to become the number one home of physical media with the launch of its ‘Entertainment Shop’ – a new curated hub offering everything from one-off finds to the latest releases across books, film, music and games. EBay, founded in 1995, says that last year it handled $84 billion of merchandise, and it has 23 million buyers in the U.K. alone.

While it is in eBay’s interest to highlight physical demand, and customers are keen to talk up the amount of their purchases, the survey may give pause for thought to artists planning on digital-only versions of their work.

 

I’m the author of books including All You Need is Rock, collecting my rock criticism for Bloomberg. I’m now editor of Dante magazine and write for ArtInfo and Forbes. Follow me @Mark_Beech

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