Editor’s take: Vinyl record sales are booming. It is difficult to pinpoint the recent trend. Collectors trying to grow their collections, audiophiles who prefer the richer sounds of analog recordings, and the sometimes fantastical sleeves that come with big records all contribute to the phase. Whatever the case, the recording industry is not complaining.
For the first time since 1987, vinyl record sales have exceeded compact disc. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) year-end 2022 report, analog turntables outperformed their digital cousins, moving 41 million units to 33 million, respectively.
The gap is even more significant when viewed from a monetary perspective. Last year, consumers spent just $482.6 million on CDs versus $1.2 billion on vinyl. The former medium accounted for 71.2 percent of all physical music revenue by 2022.
Thanks to increased interest in vinyl records in recent years, sales of grooved records have surpassed CD revenue since 2020. However, unit shipments ultimately eclipsed this year thanks to a 17 percent increase in vinyl. and an 18 percent decrease in CD. sales.
However, digital media is still the top performer in the music industry. Incorporating all digital formats, including streaming, overall revenue increased 6 percent to $15.9 billion in 2022, with digital media holding 92.3 percent of the market.
The RIAA attributes the modest 6 percent gain to 8 percent growth in paid subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music, which earned more than $10 billion last year. YouTube and ad-based subscription tiers brought in another $1.8 billion.
“[Overall,] 2022 was an impressive year of ‘growth upon growth’ sustained more than a decade after the explosion of streaming on the music scene,” said RIAA President and CEO Mitch Glazier. “Continuing that long term, revenue streaming subscription now account for two-thirds of the market with a strong record of $13.3 billion.”
Meanwhile, downloaded music continues its death spiral. Last year, the medium accounted for $495 million in revenue, down 20 percent year-over-year and up 84 percent from its peak in 2012. The advantage of streaming music on demand has phased out downloads thanks in part to storage . savings offered by portable devices.
Whether it’s nostalgia among older listeners or a youthful fascination with a music technology that emerged more than a century ago, it looks like vinyl records will last a lot longer than anyone expected.