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Vinyl records outsell CDs for the first time since the ’80s

In the late ’90s and early 2000s, it looked like vinyl records were a thing of the past. 20 years later, that’s far from the truth

SHARE Vinyl records outsell CDs for the first time since the ’80s
Buyers browse the selections on the fifth annual Record Store Day at Main Street Music in Philadelphia.

Buyers browse the selections on the fifth annual Record Store Day at Main Street Music Saturday, April 21, 2012 in Philadelphia. In 2022, vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time since 1987.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

More vinyl records were sold than CDs in 2022 for the first time since 1987, according to a report by the Recording Industry Association of America.

The news: After 16 consecutive years of growth, vinyl records now dominate the physical music industry, with 41 million albums sold, as compared to 33 million CDs.

  • Vinyl grew 17% last year, rising up to $1.2 billion, while CD sales fell 18% to $483 million.

Details: The majority of listeners are using streaming services to listen to music, with streaming making up 84% of recorded music revenue, the report said.

  • However, other digital methods of listening to music — such as downloading songs to a device — have decreased significantly, falling 20% in 2022. The RIAA states that digital downloads only accounted for 3% of the United States’ recorded music revenue.

The comeback of vinyl: After the rollout of the Walkman, CD players, iPods, MP3 players and modern music streaming platforms, it seemed like vinyl records were going to be a thing of the past. Thanks to the hipsters and people’s interest in “vintage” technology, vinyl records never really went away.

  • The Smithsonian states that in 2008, the popularity of vinyl started to rise again, and steadily increased from then. People started purchasing records again because of their collectability, nostalgia, artwork and music quality.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to a vinyl comeback, during a time when live music was unavailable and people had more time at home to spend listening to an entire album, the Smithsonian said.
  • “Many audiophiles claim the format provides a warmer, more authentic sound compared to digital (though some would argue this is largely subjective),” according to The Verge. “Nostalgia also plays a part for those who lived through the golden age of vinyl, but younger generations are driving sales too, praising the format’s tangibility and artwork.”