Physical music sales would be in the toilet if it weren’t for this analog anomaly

In the 90s, the music industry experienced a huge spike from audiophiles replacing their cassettes and records; with CD versions of the same albums.

Well, the kids of those people probably hate them now, according to new statistics.

A recent report by the Recording Industry Association of America — a music industry trade group — revealed that all physical sales of music were down in 2016, with one exception.

It has a pop, scratch and fizz to it — and you can get crappy (but pretty looking) turntables to play them at stores like Urban Outfitters. (Seriously, I know they look cute, but they’ll scratch your records. Don’t do it.)

Vinyl record sale revenue rose 3.7 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the RIAA.

And sure, that doesn’t seem like a huge number. But compared to more than -20 percent in CD revenue, over -18 percent in music videos, and -29.5 percent in the “other physical” category — which includes things like cassettes and CD singles — it’s a pretty big win.

Vinyl Revival

This shift is thanks to the “vinyl revival,” which started in the early 2000s and has made its way to the mainstream, with records being carried in stores like Barnes & Noble and Urban Outfitters.

Right now, hipsters can get albums by artists like Panic At The Disco and Rihanna from the trendy store for about $20 each. They even have exclusive variants and colors, like a hot pink Lady Gaga LP for about $34 and a yellow copy of The Weeknd’s “Starboy” for around $40.

The format also has two days devoted to it — International Record Store Day, on April 22 and a second, smaller-scale Record Store Day event pegged to Black Friday.

Both days feature special limited-release records from popular artists that are only available for purchase at certain participating stores. This year will be the big event’s 10th anniversary, if that’s any indication of how things are going for the vinyl industry.

Some special releases coming out on April 22 include a 7-inch picture disc by Prince, a 12-inch with Spotify singles by Sia, and a picture disc from the Disney movie “Moana,” featuring songs from the soundtrack Here’s a full list of special releases.

Vinyl Sales

The funniest part about the vinyl sales of 2016, though; is the fact that the format actually did better than digital downloads when it comes to the percentage of sales.

Because of the continuous rise in popularity of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music; the amount of single and even full-album digital purchases spiraled down compared to 2015. In fact, according to the RIAA, “in 2016, revenues from sales of digital tracks and albums declined faster than in any previous year.” Ouch.

Of course, even at its worst, digital downloads still took home more money than records had a chance of doing. But the point here is that the revenue percentages are in the negatives while vinyl actually went up.

Moral of the story? Ten years from now when this happens again, don’t throw away your records. And if you still have cassettes, there’s a newer holiday for that, too…

The full RIAA report, “U.S. Music Industry Revenues” can be viewed here.

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Meet the Author

Emily Bloch

Emily Bloch


Bloch is a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel based in South Florida.

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Article last modified on September 20, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Vinyl’s Not Dead - AMP.