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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at San Francisco chapter.

Laurated artist Billie Eilish stepped up to the mic for one Billboard interview to address a topic few mainstream artists these days are hesitant to whisper- the unsustainable and wasteful nature of vinyl merchandising in the music industry. In the interview with her mother, Maggie Baird, Eilish described her experiences as a major artist in a wasteful society. She described how her and her family strove to fight for sustainability in both their home and career, and the caveats they had to work through. In a response to a prompt concerning the issue with album variants, Eilish responded, “it’s some of the biggest artists in the world making f–king 40 different vinyl packages that have a different unique thing just to get you to keep buying more” (Billboard). 

Vinyl has seen a major resurgence for the past seventeen years, The Verge reports. The popularity of more portable formats of music players such as the Walkman, tapes, and cassettes ebbed away the popularity of vinyls in the late 1980s. However, a resurgence in the late 2000s repopularized the medium, but more so for the collecting aspect than the actual music. Grady Newssource reports that “In 2020, vinyl surpassed CD sales for the first time since the 1980s”. In 2023, people purchased 43 million vinyl records, 6 million more than CD purchases. Up to even the late 2010s, it was pretty traditional to release a single album format in black vinyl, and maybe a single colored variant released through retailers like Target, Walmart, or the artists’ online site. However, the 2020s have seen a huge increase in the variety of vinyls offered per album, the only differences between each variant the color of the pressing or the image on the cover. 

Eilish may be one of the first mainstream artists who has spoken up on this wasteful method. Prior to her aforementioned statement, she said that, “…it’s very important to some artists to make all sorts of different vinyl and packaging … which ups the sales and ups the numbers and gets them more money… (Billboard). This is a very accurate statement. In attempts to workaround Billboard’s strict rules about charting, popular artists rely on selling various vinyl and CD variants of a single album or song to increase their first week numbers. Pure sales of an album are much more powerful than their streaming equivalents, leaving popular musicians to release as many physical copies as possible. Especially with a dedicated, often younger fanbase who crave a sense of ownership over collectible items. 

Oversaturated artist Taylor Swift is notorious for this practice, having released at least five vinyl variants of each of her albums (including multiple variations for her re-recordings), since 2019. That isn’t even counting CD, cassette, and digital versions of those albums also available to fans. Various artists such as Olivia Rodrigo and Travis Scott have also used this method to drive sales. This practice isn’t entirely new, as artists of the last century such as Led Zeppelin and Radiohead have done similar practices for their albums. This practice cheapens the music, reducing it from a heartfelt project to a product of evil consumerism. 

And despite her claims of sustainability and dislike for chart obsession in this interview, Billie Eilish herself released 8 variants of her 2022 album Happier Than Ever, along with paint-splattered CD booklets and other memorabilia. And as for her upcoming album dropping this July, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, there is no shortage of those aforementioned collectibles available to fans.

Lindsey Tong

San Francisco '25

Writing for the greater good while encapsulating the mindset of an open minded individual.