For the first time since the 1980s, vinyl record sales have overtaken CDs in the U.S., growing by 3.6% from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
According to the RIAA 2020 mid-year revenue statistics, COVID-19 had a massive impact on physical product sales, with a decline of 22.6% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020. While CDs saw a 47.6% decline in revenues through the first half of 2020, vinyl sales increased by 3.6%, making up 62% of all physical sales, or $232 million.
Furthermore, even though COVID-19 seems to have had a bigger impact in Q2, compared to Q1, recent numbers from Billboard signal a rebound, as U.S. vinyl sales recorded the biggest seven-day stretch of the year in the week ending on September 3rd. As the announcement of a new Record Store Day schedule back in June moved the annual event to three separate dates in August, September, and October, vinyl sales on the first RSD pushed the analog platform even further into the spotlight.
The first of three RSD’s saw 802,000 units sold, the most for any week outside of Christmas shopping season since the week ending in April 18th, 2019. Billie Eilish‘s Live at Third Man Records generated the most sales, 13,000 units, sold exclusively at indie and small-chain stores. David Bowie‘s ChangesNowBowie, Metallica‘s S&M2, and Gorillaz‘s D-Sides and G-Sides also fell in the top ten, with 9,000 copies sold for each. With two more RSDs set for 2020, this could very well end in a historic year for vinyl.
As vinyl seems to be top dog in the physical realm, subscription and streaming services are clear winners in the digital realm, with 12% year-over-year increases in revenue. Conversely, digital downloads, such as single, album, and even ringtone downloads, fell a whopping 22.2%. Combined, these trends show a shift in the way Americans choose to consume music. When purchasing an album, consumers clearly choose physical over digital, and overwhelmingly prefer vinyl over CD. Subscription services like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, on the other hand, remain far ahead of both physical and digital sales, showing that Americans prefer the on-demand nature of streaming over the alternatives. While the music industry continues to deal with the devastation left by COVID-19, lets hope that the early trends shown in Q3 continue.