No longer just a niche hobby for dads and hipsters, vinyl is experiencing a major revival in mainstream music. This is reported by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) annual sales reportLast year, vinyl records outsold CDs in the US for the first time since 1987, selling 41 million units versus 33 million for CDs.
Vinyl record sales have risen consistently over the past 16 years, according to the RIAA report released Thursday, and now account for 71 percent of all physical music format revenue. The growth margins here aren’t trivial either – while physical formats as a whole were up 4 percent and brought in $1.7 billion between 2021 and 2022, vinyl sales were down only accounting for $1.2 billion, with sales up 17 percent over the prior year. In comparison, CD sales fell by 18 percent in 2022.
The RIAA isn’t the first to claim that vinyl has overtaken CD. The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) reported the same milestone earlier this year, though the numbers only related to UK sales data. Renewed interest in the formula has also emerged outside the UK and US, with comparable sales growth Germany, JapanAnd South Korea.
There are several factors driving the resurgence of vinyl. Many audiophiles claim the format offers a warmer, more authentic sound compared to digital (although some argue it does largely subjective). Nostalgia also comes into play for those who lived through the golden age of vinyl, but younger generations drive sales also, praised the format’s tangibility and artwork. Artists for the Gen-Z and millennial demographics accounted for significant record sales in 2022. Taylor Swift was the top-selling artist last year, selling nearly 1.7 million vinyl records alone — surpassing Harry Styles (719,000 sales) and The Beatles (553,000 sales) combined, according to from Lumina year-end sales report.
While vinyl has made an impressive comeback, streaming still reigns supreme. The RIAA report found that music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music will account for a whopping 84 percent of total music revenue in 2022, following a seven percent year-over-year growth to a record high of $13.3 billion. However, sales of digital downloads continue to decline. The size plummeted 20 percent this year to just $495 million, after already falling 12 percent in 2021. Despite the popularity of digital music, it seems consumers care more about the convenience of streaming than actual ownership – unless, of course, you can physically hold that music in a protective cardboard sleeve.