Vinyl Record Sales Surge

Vinyl Surpasses CDs

For the first time since 1986, sales of vinyl records in the US surpassed CD sales. Recent data shows that $232.1 million was spent on long-play and extended-play records during the first half of the 2020, compared to $129.9 million spent on compact discs.

At the beginning of the pandemic, vinyl industry leaders worried that canceled concerts, supply chain issues, and a lack of new music being produced would hurt sales. However, this has not been the case. In fact, unit sales for 2020 are up more than 17% compared to 2019 levels.

Looking Back

The history of records goes back to the 1890s when Thomas Edison introduced the phonograph and it forever changed humans’ relationship with music and sound. The plastic vinyl records that we know today were invented in the 1930s, and remained the most popular way to listen to music through the 70s and early 80s. In 1978, record sales in the US hit $2.8 billion in the US, equivalent to $11 billion 2020 dollars.

In the 80s, cassettes and CDs replaced vinyl records. Vinyl sales accounted for over 50% of music purchases in 1983, but only 1% of sales in 1990.

Vinyl’s Comeback

Over the course of the late 2000s, vinyl made a striking comeback. Sales rose from $36 million in 2006 to almost 90 million in 2010, and then to more than $700 million in 2019. This is far below vinyl’s peak, but is still a surprising trend for an outdated product.

Though streaming services offer a quick, easy way to listen to almost any song on earth, people like the tangible, vintage feel of records, as well as their sound quality. The pandemic has accelerated some trends toward modern systems, like ecommerce and virtual communication, but this is one example of consumers favoring older technology for comfort and entertainment while staying at home.

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