If the current trend continues vinyl will outsell CDs for the first time in 33 years. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the music industry’s 2019 revenue is comprised of steaming at 80% and physical sales at 20%. Physical sales of vinyl are outpacing CD sales at the mid-year mark.
CDs were introduced into the market in 1982. They soon became popular and it was thought that they would make vinyl obsolete. Vinyl sales and production would fall significantly in the 1990s until recently. Surprisingly, in the last decade new and used vinyl sales have steadily increased. During the 2016-2017 period, new vinyl sales increased by 18.5%! Not only have sales increased, but so have prices. It is not just collectible and rare editions that are selling at a premium, but new vinyl release prices are often set at $30 or more.
Even with a cost that amounts to three months of a streaming service, vinyl has a tangible allure that justifies the cost. When a fan buys a physical unit of their favorite artist’s music, they are making a commitment to that artist’s music. Also, vinyl has great packaging. You cannot get artwork, linear notes, lyrics, and photos with streaming. Many vinyl lovers note the nostalgia of the sound or act of playing a record, which cannot be beat by a CD or streaming, as the reason for making vinyl purchases.
It will be interesting to see what the numbers are at the end of the year. Until then, visit your local record shop!