Editor’s take: Vinyl record sales are booming. It’s hard to nail down the recent trend. Collectors trying to grow their collections, audiophiles preferring the richer sounds from analog recordings, and the sometimes fantastic album art the large discs come with all contribute to the phase. Whatever the case may be, the record industry isn’t complaining.
For the first time since 1987, vinyl record sales have exceeded compact discs. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) 2022 year-end report, the analog platters beat 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 only $482.6 million on CDs versus $1.2 billion for vinyl. The ancient medium cornered 71.2 percent of all physical music revenues for 2022.
Thanks to an increased interest in vinyl records over the last several years, grooved-disc sales have exceeded CD revenue since 2020. However, unit shipments finally eclipsed this year thanks to a 17-percent uptick in vinyl and an 18-percent decline in CD sales.
However, digital media remains the music industry’s highest performer. When folding in all digital formats, including streaming, overall revenues climbed 6 percent to $15.9 billion in 2022, with digital media taking 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 over $10 billion last year. Ad-based subscription tiers and YouTube brought in another $1.8 billion.
“[Overall,] 2022 was an impressive year of sustained ‘growth-over-growth’ more than a decade after streaming’s explosion onto the music scene,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier noted. “Continuing that long run, subscription streaming revenues now make up two-thirds of the market with a robust record high $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 84 percent from its peak in 2012. The advantage of streaming music on-demand has gradually squeezed downloads out of the picture thanks partly to the storage savings it offers portable devices.
Whether it’s nostalgia from older listeners or a youthful fascination with a music technology that emerged over a century ago, it appears vinyl records will hang around much longer than anyone ever expected.