Vinyl Sales Surge as Music Consumers Abandon CDs
According to the RIAA's latest data, music fans have continued flocking back to vinyl — and compact disc sales remain in free fall.
A press release issued by the recording industry's chief trade association points to another huge year-to-year increase in vinyl sales, with more than nine million LPs and EPs combining to drive a 52.1 percent gain that accounts for more than $221 million in revenue.
CDs, meanwhile, still generate more sales than vinyl, but the gap between the formats continues to narrow. According to the RIAA's numbers, slightly more than 41 million CDs have been sold so far this year — a 27.6 percent drop from last year's midpoint tally of 56.8 million, bringing in nearly $495 million in revenue (which represents a drop of more than 30 percent below last year's $722 million sales value).
As vinyl rises and CDs fall, streaming and download services remain an increasingly popular option. Streaming subscriptions account for $477.9 million so far in 2015, an almost 25 percent year-to-year gain — and while those subscriptions continue to eat into singles downloads, which are down more than 12 percent, they haven't put a dent in album downloads, which are up by roughly 5 percent.
Potentially troublesome on the streaming front is the number of new subscriptions, which saw only a 2.1 percent uptick, representing roughly 200,000 new accounts this year, despite well-publicized drives by Apple Music and TIDAL. As those numbers plateau, it seems likely that streaming services will move toward tiered price structures akin to TIDAL's, with more features — like hi-def audio (and, hopefully, liner notes) available to "premium" members.
It all adds up to what the RIAA cheerfully describes as "healthy diversification of overall revenues," with downloads accounting for 40 percent of the pie, followed by streaming at 32 percent, and tailed by physical media at 24 percent. At this point, whether those numbers represent long-term trends are anyone's guess; as consumers become better acquainted with the dangers of relying on the cloud for their libraries, and emerging technologies such as blockchain continue to disrupt the industry, those revenues will no doubt remain in a state of extreme flux.
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