Vinyl records sales are on an upward trajectory, with over 41 million units sold per year, while CDs and other physical media continue to decrease.
It has been about a decade since the start of a vinyl resurgence in the public eye. It’s gone from being a musician’s artifact to being appreciated by younger generations in a way that it hasn’t in decades.
Year-over-year, vinyl sales have grown for the past 16 years, and in 2022, vinyl outsold CDs in the United States for the first time since 1987. For years, several artists have continued putting out their music on vinyl. These efforts to keep the format alive are working.
The future of recorded music could be vinyl sales. From record labels to music executives, a lot of attention is being paid to what’s going on with vinyl.
What Are Vinyl Records Sales & Did Vinyl Outsell CDs?
In 2022, more than 41 million vinyl records were sold which approximates to about $1.2 billion in total sales. Compare this to CDs in the same time period. CDs sold only 33 million units in 2022 for a total of $483 million.
Altogether, vinyl is selling roughly 71% of all physical format music and this number is predicted to rise in the coming years. In a post-COVID world, CD revenues have fallen 18% while vinyl sales were up 17% year-over-year in sales growth.
Revenues overall for recorded music grew by 6% annually in the US, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. While streaming via Spotify still dominates, vinyl records are certainly proving to have their place.
Physical copies of vinyl records are also outselling digital downloads which have fallen by 20%. Digital downloads appear to have peaked in 2012. At that time, it made up approximately 43% of all recorded music revenues. Today digital downloads comprise 3% of those same revenues which is a massive tumble. No doubt, Spotify has effectively replaced the concept of digital downloads for most consumers.
Who Sold The Most Vinyl Albums This Year?
While we don’t have the data for who sold the most vinyl albums in 2023, we do know what the sales figures show for 2022. Here are your top three.
- Taylor Swift: 1.69 million in vinyl albums
- Harry Styles: 719,000 in vinyl albums
- The Beatles: 553,000 in vinyl albums
While roughly half of all vinyl albums sales are from rock titles, the top-selling albums in vinyl come from pop, hip-hop with titles from Kendrick Lamar and Tyler the Creator, Latin with Bad Bunny, country with Morgan Wallen, and R&B with The Weeknd.
Here are the top 10 best-selling vinyl records in 2022.
- “Midnight” by Taylor Swift – 945,000 units
- “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles – 480,000 units
- “SOUR” by Olivia Rodrigo – 263,000 units
- “good kid, m.A.A.d city” by Kendrick Lamar – 254,000 units
- “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac – 243,000 units
- “Call Me If You Get Lost” by Tyler the Creator – 211,000 units
- “folklore” by Taylor Swift – 174,000 units
- “IGOR” by Tyler the Creator – 172,000 units
- “Thriller” by Michael Jackson – 169,000 units
- “Abbey Road” by the The Beatles – 160,000 units
Why Are Vinyl Albums Making A Comeback?
Why vinyl is becoming popular again could be attributed to various trends and philosophies ongoing in music.
Though it may not apply to everyone, there is a percentage of the music audience that wants quality and is buying vinyl.
Vinyl records are widely believed to have superior quality of sound than other forms of listening. A large-format vinyl album presents the artist in the form of something that can be held in one’s own two hands and the act of playing vinyl is an experience unlike putting on a Spotify playlist.
The act of having to go to a music store to purchase the vinyl also presents opportunities to meet other fans of your favourite artist. In return for a vinyl records sale or purchase, a user also gets beautiful 12×12 artwork that is as much an aesthetic and a piece of décor as it is an expression of the music contained in its package.
Vinyl Records Benefits, Perspectives, & Their Role In Music Culture
There are plenty of reasons for the audience to buy into vinyl compared to seeking out songs elsewhere.
Many industry leaders have also responded to the vinyl sales and the vinyl movement with initiatives such as the now-annual Record Store Day.
There is a sentimentality to vinyl that may in fact help to carry it into the future. Compared to cassette tapes and CDs, vinyl has been able to survive because of all the benefits that it offers sonically as well as its attraction as a piece of memorabilia.
Knowing this, we ask, is vinyl the future of the music industry? The answer is that it certainly appears that it might be.
Being able to download a track, view the Vevo video, or stream it via Spotify, and that need for convenience is always going to be present. Though these sites may be old news in time, the idea of ‘convenience’ is going to forever dominate the future of the music industry.
Though vinyl may not be ‘convenient’ for all listeners, it has a role to play. The value and investment of a vinyl record are similar to crowdfunding. It’s an aesthetic that is pleasing to more and more people, in more ways than one. To some degree, vinyl also demonstrates a listener who is willing to put the artist before the convenience of an iPhone.
As vinyl continues to experience an upswing, independent record labels should feel encouraged to participate.
An artist with their own vinyl album will appeal to a very specific demographic of the music world. This can help get an artist noticed by a given audience, can help to get an artist established, and may be the beginning of generating momentum that can be spun into other memorabilia.
The consideration of vinyl records sales and its relationship to the production of an LP or EP is a conversation for any artist looking to sell their product in a physical format to have.