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Vinyl Records Outsell CDs for First Time in Over 35 Years

A vinyl cover of Madonna's album True Blue
A vinyl cover of Madonna’s album True Blue. Vinyl Records Outsell CDs, as per a new report by RIAA. Credit: Guillem Chanzá / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

For the first time since 1987, vinyl record sales have surpassed CD sales in the United States. Over 41 million vinyl records were sold in 2022, generating $1.2bn in revenue. In contrast, only 33 million CDs were sold, resulting in $483m in revenue, according to a report by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The report also revealed that 2022 marked the 16th consecutive year of growth for record sales. Vinyl records accounted for about 71% of physical format revenues, which include CDs, cassettes, and vinyl records. Recorded music revenue in the US grew for the seventh consecutive year and reached a record high of $15.9bn.

Revenue for recorded music increased by 6%

The RIAA report showed that revenue for recorded music in 2022 increased by 6%, driven mainly by streaming and physical music format sales.

Revenue for physical music formats has risen steadily over the years, with a “remarkable resurgence” in 2021 after being muted by Covid-19 in 2020. Physical music revenues were up 4% last year, with vinyl records experiencing a 17% increase. Meanwhile, CD revenue fell by 18%.

Physical copies of music continued to perform better than digital downloads, with the latter experiencing a decline in revenue, dropping by 20% to $495m. This is in contrast to the peak popularity digital downloads once held in 2012, accounting for 43% of recorded music revenues. Since then, downloads have plummeted to just 3% last year.

Revenue from streaming increased

Revenue from streaming, which includes “paid subscriptions, ad-supported services, digital and customized radio, social media platforms, digital fitness apps, and others,” grew 7% to a record high of $13.3bn. It accounted for 84% of total revenues.

Last year’s vinyl record sales demonstrate that vinyl is “cementing its role as a fixture of the modern music marketplace,” said RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier in a post on Medium.

Glazier added that “music lovers clearly can’t get enough of the high-quality sound and tangible connection to artists vinyl delivers” and that labels have met the demand with a steady stream of exclusives, special reissues, and beautifully crafted packages and discs.

Revenue from digital downloads declined

The recorded-music industry has seen a revival since 2016, with the emergence of streaming services compensating for the downturn in CD sales and the rise of online music piracy.

Paid subscription services such as Spotify and Apple Music generated a total of $10.2 billion from 92 million subscribers in 2022, surpassing $10 billion for the first time, according to the RIAA’s recent report.

Ad-supported streaming services like YouTube contributed $1.8 billion, accounting for 11% of the total recorded-music revenue. However, revenue from digital downloads, which includes both albums and single tracks, declined by 20%, amounting to $495 million, as per the RIAA’s new stats.

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