Vinyl Record Sales Surpassed CDs for the First Time in Decades

BY MICHELE DEBCZAK

LDProd, iStock via Getty Images

The 2020s have officially begun, but based on the music collections of many people today, the 1970s never ended. KRQE reports that consumers bought $224 million worth of vinyl records in 2019, marking the first time since 1986 that the retro medium outsold CDs.

Since peaking in the early 1980s, vinyl records have had to compete with several new technologies: first cassette tapes, then CDs, and finally digital music. But instead of fading into obscurity completely, vinyl has experienced a surprising resurgence in recent years. In the week ending in December 26 alone, vinyl album sales reached 1.243 million—the highest number since Nielsen began documenting music data in 1991.

In an age when people are constantly plugged in and digital music is more accessible than ever, the bulky, old-school technology has gained new appeal—even if it’s not as convenient as newer options. There’s no one generation driving the trend. Millennials and Gen Zers are just as likely to buy vinyl as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. The artists benefiting from vinyl sales also vary in age and era: The medium’s biggest artists currently include Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, The Beatles, and Queen.

Vinyl records may be dominating CDs, but neither technology can keep up with streaming services. Streaming accounted for 80 percent of the entire U.S music market in 2019.

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