Vinyl Is Poised to Outsell CDs For the First Time Since 1986
Sales of vinyl records have enjoyed constant growth in recent years. At the same time, CD sales are in a nosedive. Last year, the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) mid-year report suggested that CD sales were declining three times as fast as vinyl sales were growing. In February, the RIAA reported that vinyl sales accounted for more than a third of the revenuecoming from physical releases.
This trend continues in RIAA’s 2019 mid-year report, which came out on Thursday. Vinyl records earned $224.1 million (on 8.6 million units) in the first half of 2019, closing in on the $247.9 million (on 18.6 million units) generated by CD sales. Vinyl revenue grew by 12.8% in the second half of 2018 and 12.9% in the first six months of 2019, while the revenue from CDs barely budged. If these trends hold, records will soon be generating more money than compact discs.
Despite vinyl’s growth, streaming still dominates the music industry — records accounted for just 4 percent of total revenues in the first half of 2019. In contrast, paid subscriptions to streaming services generated 62 percent of industry revenues.
“We welcome [the growth in vinyl],” Tom Corson, now the co-chairman and CEO of Warner Records, told Rolling Stone in 2015. “It’s a sexy, cool product. It represents an investment in music that’s an emotional one. [But] it is a small percentage of our business. It’s not going to make or break our year. We devote the right amount of resources to it, but it’s not something where we have a department for it.”
Still, the vinyl resurgence has been a boon for some artists, especially classic rock groups. The Beatles sold over 300,000 records in 2018, while Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Queen all sold over 100,000.