Number of independent record shops in UK reaches 10-year high

Despite a decline in stores selling physical music to UK customers, independent music stores continue their growth.
era record store research 2024

The number of independent record stores in the UK has reached a 10-year high, according to new research by ERA, the digital Entertainment and Retail Association.

ERA's research confirms that as of the end of 2023, there were a total of 461 independent record shops up and down the country, a 36% increase on 2013, where there were 339. 

Despite this rise, the number of stores selling physical music in the UK has hit an all-time low; in 2013 there were a total of 10,391 stores that sold music in the UK, but now there are just 2,486 - a decline of 76%.

However, it's not all bad news - ERA's new research does prove that despite a shrinking of the physical music market, indie record shops have increased their share of the market; sales from independent record shops now account for 8% of all music sales in the UK.

In 2013, indies represented just 3% of music outlets in the country, while in 2023 they represented nearly a quarter, with 23%.

The rise of the power of independent record stores further cements the growing power of vinyl in the UK music industry. At the tail end of last year, it was announced that vinyl sales in the UK had experienced their 16th consecutive year of growth, helped of course by blockbuster releases by artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, two A-List pop acts who have instilled an almost fanatical furor in their fanbases for owning physical copies of their work.

Reflecting on ERA's research, the body's CEO Kim Bayley said: “In an entertainment market always full of surprises, this is in a class of its own. Despite largely being run by owner managers, indies have seen off competition from some of the largest and best-funded companies in the land. Indies have found their niche and they are here to stay.

“Couple this with the remarkable return of HMV, now back in its Oxford Street home, and it shows that despite the overwhelming success of music streaming, many music fans remain committed to the high street physical music buying experience.”

As Bayley notes, HMV's iconic flagship store in London's Oxford Street re-opened in November 2023, having previously been shuttered in 2019. 

Looking forward to the year ahead too, there are certainly a lot of exciting new music releases that fans will be clamouring to purchase physical copies of, including Taylor Swift's forthcoming new album The Tortured Poets Department, set for release April 19, which will include four different vinyl variants, each containing a specific new track not available on streaming. 

Plus, Record Store Day, a celebration of the music sold by British independent record stores, returns this year with none other than reclusive superstar Kate Bush being named as Record Store Day ambassador for 2024, with a physical re-release of rare track Eat The Music to mark the occasion.

Image: Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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