Vinyl outsells CDs in the United States


After Europe and Great Britain, it is now the United States’ turn to reveal the sales figures of physical music formats. Not surprisingly, the trend is clearly in favor of vinyl records, whose sales are increasing every year. Indeed, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is unequivocal, whether in terms of number of units sold or in terms of revenue, vinyl is well and truly in the lead.

Recorded music revenues in the US – in billions of dollars – Wholesale in blue and retail in green. Physical music format sales are recovering and increasing since their collapse due to streaming.

The report shows another year of growth in physical sales, with the US market selling just over 41 million vinyl records (representing $1.2 billion in revenue), compared to 33 million CD sales (for $483 million). As has been seen in Great Britain and France, this is the first time since 1987 that vinyl albums have surpassed their compact disc counterparts.

Comparison of streaming music revenue (in billions of dollars) and physical music revenue (in millions of dollars) in the US. While streaming is ten times more prevalent than physical music, it is clear that more music is being purchased every year. The market is thriving!

How much of this is due to the growing popularity of vinyl among both young and older generations, or to the demise of the CD format, is open to debate. Some see it as a demographic factor (vinyl is the medium of the baby boomer) or a trend: hanging vinyl on the wall is a great way to support an artist and show off one’s musical taste. Of course, others are thinking of vinyl consumers (who represent 50% of buyers) who don’t own a turntable. There are many possible explanations for this and they are likely to be intertwined.

Streaming is still on the rise

Nevertheless, the increase in vinyl sales revenue (+17% in the US) does not detract from the streaming market which monopolizes 84% of music consumption! There has been a clear decline in paid downloads, with the market falling from $622m to $495m (including video). This could be explained by ever more efficient network connections (4G and then 5G, as well as better network coverage) and increasingly easy access.

Nothing seems to be able to overcome the supremacy of streaming today.

A boon for second-hand CDs?

Good news for CD aficionados, the second-hand market is collapsing and compact discs have become more than affordable, albeit anachronistically – but at least as affordable as vinyl records. However, the CD has not had its last word! Used as a recycled material in the casings of Sony TVs (Sorplas), it is allowing some major brands to reinject previous investments into another industry.

The current trend is clear: vinyl is on the rise. Indeed, Metallica has acquired a vinyl pressing factory and two factories have recently resurfaced in the west of France. Even if the compact disc has not yet given up the ghost, one thing is certain: everyone is wondering whether or not vinyl is a passing fad.

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