Video killed the radio star, but vinyl records can outlast CDs.
Last year, for the first time since 1987, vinyl albums outsold CDs for the first time since 1987, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, an industry trade group. About 41 million vinyl albums were sold in 2022, compared to about 33 million CDs, RIAA said in its year-end report released Thursday.
The figures contributed to another record year for the music industry. Recorded music sales rose 6% last year to a record $15.9 billion, its seventh consecutive year of growth, according to RIAA, with streaming remaining the biggest driver of the industry’s recent expansion.
The vinyl resurgence has been in the making for years, sparked especially in the US by indie rock fans convinced of the superior sound quality of LPs and young people drawn to the nostalgia of spinning records.
Continued demand has turned record-making into a largely artisanal industry, with some buyers requesting new LPs—multicolored, scented, glow-in-the-dark—that add to the cachet of owning vinyl.
Vinyl record sales jumped 17% last year to more than $1.2 billion, marking the 16th consecutive year of growth for the format and nearly doubling from two years ago. Vinyl albums accounted for 71% of physical format sales, including items such as CDs, cassettes and DVDs, and 7.7% of total sales, according to RIAA.
CD revenues fell 18% to $483 million last year, according to RIAA.
Vinyl’s resurgence coincides with continued growth in streaming, a category that also includes Spotify Technology SA and Alphabet from Inc
YouTube and others. Streaming, which includes paid subscriptions, ad-supported services and on-demand apps, among others, accounted for 84% of the industry’s revenue, according to RIAA.
The music industry began to change in 2016, when the growth of streaming services began to outweigh a protracted decline in CD sales amid rampant online piracy. Revenue from paid subscription services increased 8% to $10.2 billion by 2022, exceeding $10 billion annually for the first time, the report said.
On-demand music services grew to an annual average of 92 million paying subscribers, compared to an average of 84 million in 2021, according to RIAA.
Music revenue from ad-supported services such as YouTube, Spotify, Facebook,
and others grew at a slower pace than previous years, up 6% to $1.8 billion. Ad-supported services contributed 11% of total recorded music revenue in 2022.
Revenue from on-demand digital downloads fell 20% to $495 million, the report said. Revenues for both albums and single-track downloads fell.
Digital downloads accounted for just 3% of U.S. music revenue in 2022, a steep drop from 2012’s peak of 43% of revenue, according to RIAA.
Write to Ginger Adams Otis at Ginger.AdamsOtis@wsj.com
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Appeared in the March 10, 2023 print edition as ‘Vinyl outsells CDs for the first time since 1987’.
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