As physical music sales wither under the power of streaming services, vinyl records are finally getting their revenge on the compact disc. The Recording Industry Association of America reports that vinyl outsold CDs this year—an achievement that hasn’t been met since 1986.
Vinyl records account for 62% of physical music sales this year, towering over CDs and generating $232 million in the first half of 2020. But it isn’t just audiophiles buying wax—retail outlets like Walmart and Barnes and Noble now sell LPs alongside CDs, and touring musicians regularly sell vinyl records at merchandise tables. The average music fan might own a small stack of records, even if they don’t have a record player.
Sadly, overall physical music sales dropped 23% this year. The COVID-19 pandemic makes music stores less appealing, and artists who usually sell records, CDs, and tapes at shows can’t tour right now. The majority of physical media sales are happening online, and the artists who benefit the most are classic rock groups like The Beatles and Queen, according to a report by Rolling Stone magazine.
And even as record sales surpass CDs, streaming media accounts for 85% of all music revenue. Physical media makes up a paltry 7% of that overall revenue, which is just slightly better than the 6% earned by digital downloads.