Vinyl overtakes CD in music market sales - Kevin Buckle

News this week that vinyl record sales had outperformed CD sales in the US for the first time since 1987 was picked up by the media, who have been reporting for some time that vinyl has eclipsed CD, but this time there was a difference.
Embracing musical variety (photo: Adobe)Embracing musical variety (photo: Adobe)
Embracing musical variety (photo: Adobe)

Up until now the value of vinyl sales has been greater than that of CD, which given that vinyl costs approximately three times as much as CD is not as big a surprise as initially might be thought.

However, what is now being said is that in the US just over 41 million vinyl records were sold compared to 33 million CDs, so the number of units is now greater and vinyl’s value was a fraction under one billion pounds while CDs raised less than half that amount.

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To put all of this into context, revenue from streaming, which includes the many ways music is listened to digitally, was around ten times that of vinyl. Also, as somebody who was selling vinyl in 1987, I have to say the way it is purchased now is very different to how it was back in the eighties.

Then the focus was far more on the music than the format. For sure CDs were becoming popular and let us not forget cassesttes were still selling, but the main thing was the music. Now the talk is all about vinyl and often the music actually feels secondary.

I was shocked to hear that teenagers are now vaping as a lifestyle choice and it had nothing to do with weaning themselves off cigarettes.

There are, of course, reports that over a third of vinyl bought is never played but merely displayed and though that seems hard to believe, hearing the younger customers talking in the shop it is quite possibly true, with vinyl too being seen as a lifestyle choice.

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Of course, in the eighties, with the exception of collectors who may not play a record, virtually all records were bought to be played.

Should trends change and vinyl lose popularity it would now be devastating to the vast majority of

high street record shops, while as the figures for streaming show, it would not be the end of the world for the record companies.

Selling used as well as new vinyl and CDs does insulate shops from any impending disaster to some extent and certainly at Avalanche we are further protected by the amount of T-shirts and posters we sell, along with other merchandise.

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I have suggested for some time that Record Store Day should remember that the idea originally was to bring people back into shops and that could be done as easily by offering limited T-shirts and posters as much as “limited” vinyl, but despite having friends in high places it has been ignored.

We may have had fans queueing onto Waverley Bridge for the Taylor Swift single last year but believe me they would be queueing all the way along Princes Street for a limited Taylor Swift T-shirt.

The same would go for Blur and many of the other artists with RSD releases this year.

Record companies can afford to milk vinyl for as long as they can while having a digital safety net. Many shops are not so lucky.

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