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Vinyl records outsell CDs for the first time since 1987

Customers shop at the Shuga Records store during the Record Store Day in Chicago on April 13, 2019. Vinyl record sales have been on the rise for 16 straight years, with an extra bump in demand during the pandemic.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images
Customers shop at the Shuga Records store during the Record Store Day in Chicago on April 13, 2019. Vinyl record sales have been on the rise for 16 straight years, with an extra bump in demand during the pandemic.

Vinyl albums outsold CDs last year for the first time since 1987, according to the Recording Industry Association of America's year-end report released Thursday.

It marked the 16th consecutive year of growth in vinyl, with 41 million albums sold — compared to 33 million CDs.

Streaming is still the biggest driver of the music industry's growth, making up 84% of recorded-music revenue, but physical music formats saw a remarkable resurgence in the past couple of years.

Vinyl revenue grew 17% and topped $1.2 billion last year, making up nearly three-quarters of the revenue brought in by physical music. At the same time, CD revenue fell 18% to $483 million, the RIAA said.

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The pandemic led to a spike in demand for vinyl records, driven largely by younger buyers. Vinyl has become a major part of artists' marketing campaigns.

Artists including Adele and Taylor Swift made pop a fast-growing genre on vinyl, and many independent manufacturers struggled to ramp up and meet demand after years of decline. That's forced some bands to push back album releases and stopped small artists from being able to press records.

The recorded-music industry's fortunes started to improve in 2016 as streaming services grew, overcoming the decline in CD sales and online music piracy. Paid subscription services including Spotify and Apple Music brought in $10.2 billion from 92 million paid subscribers in 2022, topping $10 billion for the first time, according to RIAA.

Ad-supported streaming, like YouTube, brought in $1.8 billion and made up 11% of recorded-music revenue. Revenue from digital downloads, including both albums and single tracks, dropped 20% to $495 million.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde