RIAA reports vinyl records set to outsell CDs

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that the revenue from the sales of vinyl records is poised to be more than the sales of compact discs (CDs) by the end of the year if the current trends continue.

In the first half of 2019, sales from vinyl records were around $224.1 million (on 8.6 million units). The figure is close to the $247.9 million (on 18.6 million units) that CD sales made in the same period.

The revenues made from vinyl sales increased by 12.8% and 12.8% from the second half of 2018 and the first half of 2019 respectively. On the other hand, the revenue from CDs during the same periods hardly moved.

While sales have been going up, it only account for a small percentage in the overall music purchasing revenue. In the total revenue for the first half of the year, only about 4% were generated from records. Streaming continues to generate the most for the industry.

The RIAA report indicated that 80% of the revenue of the music industry comes from streaming, 62% of which comes from paid subscriptions.

In its 2018 year-end report, the RIAA said CD revenue totaled to $698 million and there was a 34% decrease. For the first time since 1986, revenue from CD sales was less than $1 billion.

According to the owner of Rockit Scientist Records, John Kioussis, one of the reasons why there is a shift away from CDs is due to cost.

“CDs just got too expensive. An indie label album can be $18.99, and reissues can be in the high twenties to low thirties in prices,” said Kioussis.

When compact discs were first introduced in 1982, it was meant to replace vinyl records. However, there seems to be a resurgence of vinyl records in the past couple of years.

The revival of vinyl records has particularly been good for some artists most especially classic rock groups. In 2018, The Beatles sold over 300,000 copies. Other acts like David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, and many others have passed more than 100,000 copies.

Over the past 10 years, the sales of both old and new vinyl records have been going up quite steadily. According to an eBay report, there was a 55.8% increase in sales from 2010 to 2011. Also, in 2016-2017, there was an 18.5% increase in year-over-year sales of new vinyl.

With the increase in sales, the prices also went up. In 2017, you can get a new vinyl record for $28.40. If you take a look at its average cost ten years ago, in 2007, it was only about $4.80.

According to the director of content at music gear marketplace Reverb, Dan Orkin, the change in the way people consume music is partly due to a response in streaming.

“For some, streaming has cheapened music, and the ritual of buying and owning a record is a way to really commit to the artist and their work,” said Orkin.

However, Orkin also acknowledges that while streaming has been the format of choice for music consumers, it has also helped in selling records.

“Many vinyl collectors and fans are also users of streaming media. Discovering an artist on Spotify often leads to a vinyl purchase,” adds Orkin.

The president and founder of Superior Music Publishing, Mara Kurge, think that the shift from CDs to LPs is partly driven by the vinyl’s aesthetic.

“If you want to hear a song, you can almost always find it on streaming, which displaces both CDs and albums for listening. But if you want some physical media to collect and display, you’re going to want the one with the coolest packaging, and that is almost always vinyl,” Kuge said.

Audiophile music mastering engineer Steve Hoffman said this has something to do with the “warmer” sound that vinyl records have. This sound comes from the technology used to make them.

“Vinyl, at least some of it, is usually cut with gear that is vintage, so it has a nice, balanced sound, just like the old days. With digital, anything goes, and in the hands of a bad engineer, too much knob-twiddling is a disaster,” stated Hoffman.

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