Vinyl record sales have been on the rise for years, but according to the RIAA’s 2022 Year-End Earnings Report for the Music Industry (PDF), record sales hit a new high last week. last year. For the first time since 1987, unit sales of vinyl albums have surpassed those of CDs, justifying everyone who has spent decades of their lives talking about how vinyl “sounds better”.
Although vinyl unit sales only surpassed CD sales last year, vinyl record revenues have outpaced CDs for some time now. In 2022, vinyl albums grossed $1.2 billion, compared to $483 million for CDs. Growth in vinyl was more than enough to offset a decline in CD revenue, helping overall physical media revenue climb 4% from 2021 (which was already well above 2020).
Streaming services still account for the vast majority of all US music revenue – 84%, up from 83% in 2021. The RIAA says there were an average of 92 million streaming music subscriptions assets 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 just 3% of all music revenue in 2022.
There have always been people who have claimed that music played on vinyl sounds better than digital music, but that probably doesn’t explain the rise in popularity of vinyl so long after the advent of CDs, MP3s and music. in streaming. A vinyl album is big enough to serve as a work of art, and there’s something appealing about the tactility of physical objects in an age when media is increasingly ephemeral.
There’s also a retro-tech element to the resurgence of vinyl. Older point-and-shoot digital cameras from the 2000s are currently popular with high school and college students who grew up with smartphones, and there are enduring communities around modding and restoring old PCs, game consoles, and more. games, typewriters and all sorts of other things that have ostensibly been “replaced” with superior alternatives. CDs and iPods are down right now, but they’re apparently just a viral TikTok trend far from renewed relevance.
If you want to start (or reboot) your own vinyl collection, the format has become popular enough that companies like Audio Technica, Sony and Victrola are launching new turntables with modern amenities like Bluetooth connectivity.