Vinyl Record Sales Have Outpaced CDs For The First Time In 36 Years — Here's What That Means

The tables are turning.

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
A record on a turntable. Right: Montreal artist HANORAH holds her latest album.

A record on a turntable. Right: Montreal artist HANORAH holds her latest album.

Records have been spinning back into favour for some time with more artists releasing on the format and buyers surging to build personal collections. But new data shows vinyl is finally outselling CDs for the first time since 1987.

A Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) report reveals vinyl made up over 70% of physical music sales last year, bringing in $1.2 billion in revenue. Around 41 million record albums were sold, compared to 33 million CDs.

That marks over fifteen years of successive growth for the vintage format and a significant shift from a few years back when CDs still dominated physical music sales. In 2019, fresh pressings brought in just $224 million in revenue, compared to $248 million for CDs.

Several factors seem to be driving the retro revival. For one, music fans often enjoy the rich sound produced by records, as well as the tactile experience of handling and collecting physical albums. Vinyl has also become increasingly popular among younger listeners, who may not have grown up with the format but are drawn to its throwback appeal.

Record labels are vying to meet the increased demand, as new vinyl pressings sell for higher prices than CDs or digital downloads. You're likely to continue seeing more classic albums remastered and released for vinyl. Elaborate album art — with albums offering a larger canvas than CDs — will also make a comeback.

While vinyl still represents a relatively small slice of the overall music market — digital streaming makes up 84% — the fact that vinyl has overtaken CDs in sales is a significant milestone for the format. One that suggests the popularity of wax is unlikely to wane anytime soon.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an award-winning writer, editor and former radio journalist with a passion for finding hidden gems in the city.
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