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Vinyl Resurgence: Sales Surpass CDs as Physical Music Formats Make a Comeback

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Last year, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that people purchased 43 million vinyl records, surpassing CD sales by 6 million a trend not seen since 1987. This surge reflects a 17-year growth streak in vinyl sales, despite its higher price compared to CDs. Vinyl sales brought in $1.4 billion, dwarfing the $537 million generated by CDs.

Although CD revenue saw an increase, actual CD sales dropped by about 700,000 units compared to the previous year. Additionally, nearly half a million cassettes were sold, according to Billboard. However, they are these physical formats pale in comparison to streaming, which accounted for 84 per cent of music revenue in 2023, totalling $14.4 billion, a record high.

RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier noted that this growth occurred despite concerns about generative artificial intelligence’s impact on music’s cultural reach. While AI poses challenges like lyric distribution and voice cloning, human-made music remains predominant.

Streaming may be the music champ, but physical media is stubborn. Image: RIAA
Streaming may be the music champ, but physical media is stubborn. Image: RIAA

The decline of CD players in new cars and computers has contributed to the resurgence of vinyl sales. Vinyl’s tactile appeal and nostalgic allure attract both audiophiles and nostalgic individuals, fostering engagement and discussions about music formats.

Despite streaming’s dominance, physical sales maintained their share of the market, accounting for 11 per cent of sales, with music sync royalties and digital purchases each holding a smaller portion. Since overtaking digital sales in 2017, physical media continues to retain its niche in the music industry landscape.

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