Vinyl Record Sales in China Gradually Pick Up

Consumers in China are getting more enthusiastic about the retro way of enjoying music

by Davy Huang

In a world where music can be easily accessible from streaming apps such as Spotify, QQ Music and Apple Music, some Chinese consumers are gradually turning to vinyl records which offers better quality of sound and a sense of retrospect. 

Alibaba's Tmall platform, the biggest e-commerce marketplace in China, showed that vinyl record players sales are steadily increasing, driven by vinyl record player brands such as Sony, Audio Technica, Syitren, WhatPlus, and numerous domestic brands. Some of the top sellers such as HYM and WhatPlus offer record player as low as ¥479 (roughly $66) which is extremely affordable and making the retro way of enjoying music more popular. Tmall's data showed that vinyl record player's search to transaction index have been steadily increasing from 31,843 to 46,192 between July to November 2023, an increase of 11% MoM.

Around the world – there is also no secret that vinyl sales are increasing driven by covid19. In the United States, sales of vinyl records have surpassed CD sales in 2022, reaching 410 million unit sold, and account to 71% of total physical music record sales, according to RIAA.

Why are Chinese Consumers Turning to Vinyl Records? 

In a report as early as 2019, RIAA report showed that vinyl record sales in China are growing at a rate of 100% year over year. Vinyl records offers not just a unique quality of sound, but also the album artwork, a unique physical copy, which are seen by many consumers as collectables. Rare and classic albums has even higher collection value, that the owners of the record can even resell to a higher bidder.

In Tmall, Taylor Swift's 1989 Taylor's Version vinyl album have been sold at least over 5,000 copies combined by various retailers. The vinyl album was first released in October 27th of 2023 by Republic Records, and is a re-recording of Swift's fifth studio album. Average price of the album is $38 USD while in China the average listing price is as high as ¥350 (roughly $48). 

People communicating about their expensive vinyl record purchase in Xiaohongshu

People communicating about their expensive vinyl record purchase in Xiaohongshu


Limited edition of Jazz, classic American bands, Hong Kong singers, and even K-POP are also highly popular among traders. In Little Red Book, a popular Chinese social media platform, people are sharing stories such as spending thousands of yuan to shop from overseas resellers just to secure a limited edition from their favorite album.

Vinyl record's popularity is also driven by the increasing boutique coffee & bookstore in China, where young people gathered during weekend to enjoy music, coffee and reading, and even turning into a trending social activity. Music enthusiast also gathered at events to exchange new findings, widening their knowledge of global music genres that are hard to find from the noisy social media platforms in China. 

 A popular vinyl jazz boutique store Space 687211 in Beijing; image credit to Xiaohongshu

A popular vinyl jazz boutique store Space 687211 in Beijing; image credit to Xiaohongshu

 While the existing boutiques in China that offer vinyl record acoustic experience is still much less comparing to that in Japan and South Korea, but the rising popularity of the leisure format could lead to a boom of new stores opening in the coming years.


Where and How are Chinese Consumers Buying Vinyl Records?

While vinyl records are becoming increasingly popular among niche audience, the market does not have a leader of vinyl record distribution. Most Chinese consumers now shopping foreign originated vinyl record from local flea markets or from local authorized retailers. Some of the reselling activities also happen on Taobao, or Xianyu, which are popular C2C e-commerce platform. There is not currently one place where consumers can get complete access to import vinyl records.

This is partly due to the publishing of media production require registration at both China customs and provincial administration department of press and publications, so that not all products have been registered for import and domestic distribution. Selling of media publication online also require special approval from the Chinese authority – and hence the major marketplaces including Tmall Global and have not yet allow the sales of publications (including books, vinyl records, CD or DVD) originated outside of China.

  A Local Flea Market in China Where Imported Vinyl Records are Distributed

 A Local Flea Market in Shenzhen Where Imported Vinyl Records are Distributed


On the supply side, Chinese consumer's lack of awareness of global musicians and the various types of genres also does not justify the supply side's investment in expanding distribution channels in China. And the history of disrupted shipment to China also discourages sellers to establish a business targeting Chinese audience. There are rumors on Chinese social media platform Zhihu, that a majority of Chinese local second-hand vinyl record sellers imported products from overseas as waste products. But as China customs crack down on illegal importation and waste products import, there was not much options left for consumers to shop niche international vinyl records from domestic suppliers.

This pushes the Chinese vinyl users to look for global online records sellers, such as Discogs, HMV, Mondo, where their orders are consolidated overseas and then forwarded by freight agencies to the consumers in China as personal article. Some Daigous also provide service to customers who want specific products – and markup on the pricing to earn a margin. China customs currently allow each individual to import up to 20 records for personal use only – and it had been exploited by some Daigous as a method to import and resell, but it's is not fully compliant to China customs' regulations.


Opportunities & Challenges Operating Vinyl Records Retail Business


While vinyl record ultimately is a niche product category in China, but given the sheer size of the China market and the increasing penetration of domestic vinyl record players, demand for foreign pressed LP will inevitably increase. For retailers while offering products to customers from China, also need to beware of the risk to ship and deliver the products.

There are only a few legitimate options to ship a pressed vinyl record to Chinese customers, that is via official licensed distributor – which could be a China domestic importer who have obtained the required license and IP authorizations. Shipping via postal route so far is also a viable options but sellers also need to truthfully declare the products to the customs and beware of the personal limit of importing records for personal use only.

For imported products – retailers can also consider to leverage domestic e-commerce platforms (not cross-border) such as Tmall Domestic or domestic, and obtain relevant license before running your business in China.




Social Media Logistics cross-border e-commerce E-commerce Consumption trend

Cross-border E-commerce Opportunities in China

The Frost & Sullivan Report dives into the cross-border e-commerce industry and review strategies and expectations of international retailers.

Download Now