Sales of vinyl albums, those 10- to 12-inch, thin black discs found in basements and closets across the country, are increasing to the point where they may soon surpass that of CDs — sales of which are flat.
According to data from the Recording Industry Association of America, sales of recorded music have increased for the past three years, from $4.2 billion in the first half of 2017 to $4.6 billion in the first half of 2018 to $5.4 billion in the first half of this year.
Though the sales of vinyl records are not responsible for this growth — that honor goes to paid music streaming subscriptions — vinyl album sales are nearly on par with the sales of CDs, with Rolling Stone Magazine even opining in a Sept. 6 article that one day soon, vinyl sales could surpass those of CDs.
“We sell tons of vinyl,” said Georgie Wicks, an employee at Budget Music in Grand Forks.
A little less than half the space in the store is devoted to vinyl albums.
“I feel vinyl is getting a lot more popular. A lot of people tell me they don’t have CD players in their cars anymore," said Wicks, adding that people come in to Budget to special order records.
Dan Maier has owned Budget Music for about the past 18 years.
“They’re still behind for us, but they are picking up,” he said about sales of records versus CDs.
“I think, if the industry would drop the price of vinyl, it would help. Average is probably $24 to $34,” said Maier of vinyl prices.
When asked why people are now listening to vinyl, Maier responded: “It’s nostalgic. We have people my age that have had vinyl back in the day, but now their kids are growing up and they think it’s really cool that Mom and Dad had all those albums and everything, so they dig that stuff.”
Visiting Grand Forks on Monday, Sept. 16, Dave Richland was browsing through the stacks of new and used records, occasionally pulling one out and stacking it on the counter.
“Want to see a picture?” he asked and shared on his phone photos of shelf after shelf of albums, nearly 9,000 records in total.
“I find that it sounds better. I have a $1,500 turntable and a $100 CD player,” said Richland, drawing a comparison between the technology.
“Vinyl has a warmer sound. I’m more engaged when I’m listening to a record, because you have to flip it every 15 or 20 minutes. With a CD, you can throw six in at once and play it for six hours. If you’re playing a record, that 15 or 20 minutes, I actually actively listen more instead of using it as background music.”
Richland, 59, considers himself an audiophile, a high-fidelity sound enthusiast. He said he has been buying records since he was 9 years old. He runs a conversation thread on the website forums.stevehoffman.tv, called Weekend Records and Cocktails. Steve Hoffman was the mastering engineer who re-mastered works by artists, such as Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and John Coltrane.
In a document called the “Mid-year 2019 RIAA Music Revenues Report,” the industry group notes that sales of vinyl albums make up only about 4% of the total recorded music revenue in the first half of 2019, to the tune of $224 million, an increase of nearly 13% from last year.
Sales of CDs didn’t increase at all from the first half of 2018 and managed to earn $247.9 million. Sales of physical products, CDs, vinyl records, cassettes (yes, cassettes), CD and vinyl singles and audio DVDs combined, earned a total of $485.1 million.
“The thing is, it’s pretty cool when someone younger comes in and buys a turntable, then they have to feed it, so they come back,” said Maier.
If the vinyl trend continues, perhaps those 10- to 12-inch, thin black discs won’t stay in basements and closets anymore. They may be on the shelf, within easy reach.
Vinyl records 42% Cassette tapes 4% CDs 54%
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