While many consider vinyl records to be obsolete and CDs to be on their way out as well, a new report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) suggests that vinyl records outsold compact discs (CDs) in the US for the first time since 1987—suggesting that physical media, including vinyl records, may be coming back in trend.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade group that tracks music sales, said that 41 million vinyl albums were purchased in 2022, compared to 33 million CDs. The report also said that recorded music revenue increased by six per cent to $15.9 billion in 2022, marking the seventh year of growth in a row.
RIAA says that the biggest factor behind the recent rise is increased music streaming. They also suggest that playing records for nostalgia and indie-rock fans in the U.S. appreciating LP’s superior sound quality may have contributed to this.
The numbers speak for themselves—revenue from vinyl records rose 17% to over $1.2 billion last year—for the 16th consecutive year of growth for the format, and on the contrary, CD revenue nosedived to 18% last year to $483 million, as per WSJ.
Vinyl records have not only risen in popularity in mainstream music, but have trickled down to popular video games like the recently released God of Ragnarök as well. The game’s collectors edition and Jötnar edition shipped with a neon green vinyl record inside—with the game’s soundtrack on it. The look and feel of vinyl records, and the sheer creativity one can expect from them nowadays—have contributed greatly to the rising popularity.
WSJ notes that the industry has turned ‘artisanal’—“with some buyers asking for novelty LPs—multicolored, scented, glow-in-the-dark—that add to the cachet of owning vinyl.”
The report said that on-demand digital downloads—which were expected to be the proverbial ‘future’—have surprisingly fallen 20% to $495 million. And, importantly, both albums and single-track downloads saw a drop in revenue.
As RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier told Rolling Stone, “2022 was an astounding year of persistent ‘growth-over-growth’ more than ten years after streaming’s arrival in the music scene.”
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and physical media makes a comeback, or if this, like most trends, will fade away as well.
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