One for BPs drummer, my cousin Mark.
Sales of vinyl albums overtake CDs for the first time since the late ’80s
Streaming still accounts for 84% of music revenue, but vinyl is having a moment.
Sales of vinyl records have been on the rise for years, but according to the RIAA’s 2022 year-end revenue report for the music industry (PDF), record sales hit a new high last year. For the first time since 1987, unit sales of vinyl albums outpaced those of CDs, vindicating all the people who have spent decades of their lives talking about how vinyl “just sounds better.”
Although vinyl unit sales only surpassed CDs last year, revenue from vinyl records has been higher than revenue from CDs for a while now. In 2022, the RIAA says that vinyl albums earned $1.2 billion, compared to $483 million for CDs. The growth in vinyl was more than enough to offset a drop in CD revenue, helping overall physical media revenue climb 4 percent over 2021 (which was already way up over 2020).
Streaming services still account for the vast majority of all music revenue in the US—84 percent, up from 83 percent in 2021. The RIAA says there was an average of 92 million streaming music subscriptions active in 2022, which, together with digital radio and ad-supported sites like YouTube, generated $13.3 billion. The growth of streaming services and physical media comes at the expense of paid digital downloads, which accounted for a mere 3 percent of all music revenue in 2022.
There have always been people who have asserted that music played on vinyl sounds better than digital music, but that probably doesn’t explain vinyl’s increasing popularity this long after the advent of CDs, MP3s, and streaming music. A vinyl album is large enough to double as an art piece, and there’s something appealing about the tactility of physical objects in an age where media is increasingly ephemeral.
I do have to admit, CDs DID kinda render album-cover art—which, during the rock era many audiophiles and record geeks truly did consider it to be such, and a lot of it was at that, or had artistic ambitions anyway, with both bands and designers crafting it with that precise intention in mind—pretty much immaterial, since you’d need a magnifying glass to be able to see it well enough to really appreciate it.
Oh, and the reason I mentioned Mark above is that he has a vinyl collection that one has to see to believe—boxes and boxes of records, in 45 and 33 both, all neatly tucked away in plastic sleeves to keep the dust and moisture out. All arranged in alphabetical order, no less. There are some real gems in those boxes too—limited editions, vintage rarities, colored vinyl, the whole kit and kaboodle. It’s any record geek’s wet dream.
Every city, town, village, or burg we’d hit for a show, time allowing, off Mark would jet to the local used-record emporium, returning to the hotel with multiple whacking-great shopping-bags fairly brimming over with deluxe finds. Same-same when we were off—because hey, that’s what Saturday afternoons are FOR, capisce?
Over time, he’d come to learn what was really worth purchasing and what wasn’t, winding up as a bona fide expert when it came to sniffing out 24k LP gold—however obscure, wherever it might be lurking. God only knows what the whole collection might be worth by now, but it would have to tot up to some serious money. So yeah, this one’s for him.