While overall album sales have gradually declined in the United States over the past decade as music consumption shifted to streaming services, vinyl LPs have gained popularity as a physical token in the digital age. Between 2007 and 2021, album sales dropped from 501 million to 109 million, according to MRC Data. LP sales, meanwhile, climbed from 2.5 million to 41.7 million, making vinyl the big winner of the streaming age (next to streaming services, obviously).
As the following chart shows, CD sales, in particular, have dropped precipitously over the past decade, while the age of digital albums was cut short by the advent of streaming services. Interestingly, LP sales surpassed both CD and digital album sales last year, making vinyl records the most popular format outside of streaming services.
While the album has been losing relevance in recent years as streaming services pushed playlist-based listening, some music fans still value the work that some artists put into creating a coherent piece of art. Looking at album sales, it seems like there is a significant overlap between album buyers and vinyl aficionados. Without saying that one is better than the other, listening to a vinyl album is the three-course meal to streaming’s snackable two-minute tracks. There’s a time and a place for both. See the chart below and learn more here.
So how big is vinyl’s comeback really? Should we all dust off our old record players to prepare for the analog future of music? According to MRC Data’s 2021 Year-End Music report, LPs accounted for 38 percent of album sales in the United States, which is quite substantial. Factoring in streaming and downloads of single tracks, however, that number drops to 4.7 percent of album-equivalent music consumption, which puts things in perspective. See a more detailed view of LP record sales and learn more here.
Why the return to vinyl is a question. Perhaps, when you have a physical format like a vinyl record, it heightens all the senses. It’s the joy of seeing and touching the vinyl jacket and reading the jacket’s cover to learning more about the music without a freaking iPhone and squinting. It’s being careful with how we hold the records and how the needle touches them. One can feel the music.
The experience requires us to be present – to be in the room where it is played, and so maybe we ask our family to gather around and experience the music together. More importantly, it feels exclusive and unique. Owning a vinyl record of your favorite artists makes you feel like you’re more connected to them than just streaming their music on Spotify or on iTunes. To bond with music is something we should all do while we endure this freaking Covid insanity.
In the comment section below, let us know whether you are ready to step back into nostalgia with LP vinyl records.
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