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Thread: CD and Vinyl Record Sales

  1. #1
    Stuck on the Border Delilah's Avatar
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    Default CD and Vinyl Record Sales

    This thread is in response to a statement made on Glenn’s subforum that “vinyl is way more popular than CDs.”

    This is not about singling out anyone so I hope this doesn’t get misconstrued. The thing is, this kind of statement is something I keep reading on social media, esp. Twitter. The Rolling Stone article that came out several months ago seemed to have sparked some misunderstanding about what was actually discussed regarding CD and vinyl sales. Even the article’s title states that vinyl is poised to outsell CDs, not that it has actually happened. Do people not really understand what “poised to” means? I am not being snarky, it’s a serious question - how can so many people ascertain from this that vinyl is now more popular than CDs?

    I’m not the only one who has been taken aback by these declarations, as there has been a follow up to the RS article:

    “No, Vinyl Records Aren’t Outselling CDs - Do the Math” by Paul Riismandel, Radio Survivor, October 9, 2019


    The 2019 mid-year reports show that CDs sold 18.6 million units while vinyl sold 8.6 million units. That is a huge difference. Clearly CDs are outselling vinyl as far as unit-by-unit sales.

    In terms of sales, which is what the record industry really cares about, CDs had $247.9 million in sales while vinyl had $224.1 million. It does look like vinyl is catching up to CDs in terms of sales, and could very well surpass CDs in the near future. But in general, a vinyl record costs a lot more than a CD. So sales figures alone do not translate to greater popularity.

    There’s also the “hipster” factor where a certain percentage of vinyl purchases are by consumers who don’t even own a turntable. To them vinyl is just cool to have or display. That too doesn’t translate to greater popularity of the medium when it comes to how one listens to music.

    I have nothing against vinyl. My earliest memories of listening to music are records and albums being spun on a record player - the Beatles, The Supremes, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, etc. But I do have something against, for lack of a better term, “fake news” and the spread of false information that becomes so quickly widespread that it is established as fact and few people question it. It is similar to the blog post that stated CDs will be dead by the beginning of 2020: exaggeration and apparent false hype.

    Ok, that is my soapbox lecture for the day. Tune in next week when I rail against record stores that don’t organize their albums properly, LOL.


  2. #2
    Stuck on the Border WalshFan88's Avatar
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    Default Re: CD and Vinyl Record Sales

    Hmm... Well I do believe that vinyl is seeing the biggest resurgence since they went out of favor. Younger people are getting into it. Record stores are seeing a comeback. People are discovering the benefits.

    Best Buy no longer sells CDs in stores, but yet they sell new vinyl. Walmart's CD selection has been shrinking vastly and at least around here - cease to exist. One of them has vinyl, though! Some new cars don't have CD players. Personally I DO think CD's are a dying breed. Obviously people are buying them still, but for how long only remains to be seen. Yet vinyl stores are being opened all the time, record stores are becoming a 'thing' again. But I think it's going in two opposite directions - streaming/downloaded music and then vinyl. Often two very different types of listeners. And then you have those like me that totally do both for different situations entirely. Right now if you want a CD, Amazon is the best place for that. Or used in a record store. That's it. You won't find them at the big box stores anymore. Even Cracker Barrel is slimming their country CD turnstile in favor of vinyl, albeit new pressings in shrinkwrap. Last time I went there, they had quite a sizable amount of vinyl - a mix of rock and country. Even Barnes and Noble is selling vinyl now! Both old and new artists.

    I love vinyl. There may be debate on sales figures, but one cannot deny the fact that vinyl sounds far better than any digital format, including compact disc. Provided you have a quality stereo - buy a high end CD player and a nice turntable and do the comparison for yourself. If someone can't hear the difference, that's fine, but that, IMO, makes their take on it irrelevant. And I don't think you'll find many who disagree. Look, I get it - vinyl is inconvenient. You have to have some sort of a "rig". And you can't carry it with you. I love technology. I vouch for it constantly. I shut down the naysayers of smartphone usage and stand up for those who use it extensively. But when I want a listening experience - that's only gonna come from sitting down and putting on a record through great speakers. Put your iPhone through that same stereo and this plastic like sound heard just ruins the vibe. It's a means to an end, I suppose - but I value the little things. I use Spotify a lot on the go, or laying in bed. But when I want to truly enjoy music - I put on vinyl.

    Audiophiles have been singing the praises of vinyl for years. Analog. I DO think there is a nostalgic factor at play here - but you know what? I welcome it with open arms! They are finally coming around that . Hipsters get a bad rap. Personally any movement that puts vinyl back at the forefront, or in the spotlight is A-OK with me. And outside of my love for technology, I'm an old soul especially when it comes to the arts. I find hipsters easier to get along with most of the time than my contemporaries who are very much into the modern music, movies, shows, hobbies, etc. And I'm not saying anyone here is using hipster as a derogative term, but usually the people who use that phrase are not seeing those types of people in a positive or even neutral light. I'm a nostalgic person. I'm definitely not ashamed of that. To me that's okay.

    Sound quality got progressively worse as the medium became smaller/more convenient. Vinyl > Tape > CD > Download/Streaming. Obviously you can break it down far further to different file formats/bitrates, but the bottom line is that CD sounds better than downloaded music or streaming, and vinyl sounds better than CDs, and even that much better than Spotify/iTunes. The further you go back, the higher quality. Now, one could make the argument that if you don't invest in quality stereos/speakers and turntables, you aren't getting the full benefit and therefore it's a bit of a waste. And I cannot argue with that. I like the idea of youngsters buying it, but you do need to sink some money into it to get out of it what is truly significantly better than any other format. I don't think most young people get quality gear. Most get cheaper setups.

    As far as the suggestion of younger people buying them for the cool factor and not listening - I do think that does exist, however I think there are a LOT of young people listening to vinyl. Granted, it may be on a cheap turntable that isn't of high quality, but I do think the majority of vinyl buyers are actually listening to them. I think the category of those who buy them for other reasons is considerably less. But it brings up another good point - if you love album art, vinyl is by far the medium for you. I'm all about album covers and IMO that is all lost on streaming and downloaded music. Yeah, a thumbnail pic exists but you can't make out cool details. CD's and tapes at least had a cover, albeit smaller than vinyl. But vinyl is by far the best way to see the album art. With older records when cover art was IMO better, it makes a difference.

    I personally think the two extremes of vinyl which is massively inconvenient, and streaming/downloaded music which is the definition of convenience is the way to go. CD sits in the middle, and I find it unnecessary. If I'm going to use a stereo, it might as well be vinyl. Where as I cannot deny the convenience and flexibility of Echo speakers or music on your iPhone/iPod. Both are ok, and I think make for the most versatile listening style that's out there. Tape/CD/8-track/etc is just not something I see as being necessary anymore unless you cannot afford a turntable OR have bad internet where you can't stream/DL.

    So all in all - I think CD's are definitely still being sold, but they are dwindling - at least in terms of in store purchasing and where you can play them. I think Amazon's CD sales is definitely responsible for a lot of that CD sales number listed. They have the widest selection and actually still sell them! I also think that perhaps there should be more in depth statistics of vinyl record sales. Including the new stuff being made now of new and old artists, include the really small vibey record shops in all areas of the country or even world who are selling used records every day, and of course include all the varieties of CD sales. While CD's might still sell more in the end figures, I think the vinyl record sales numbers would be far higher than above if the net casted was a bit wider and pooled data from more sources and more demographics. I can't help but to believe more vinyl is being sold than those figures, however I'm not discounting that CDs could still show a higher number than vinyl. I'm not doubting CDs sell more, but that vinyl number is low to me.
    -Austin-
    Resident Guitar Slinger
    Fan of the (real) Eagles 1972-2016
    #NOGLENNOEAGLES

    RIP Glenn Lewis Frey 1948-2016


  3. #3
    Stuck on the Border Delilah's Avatar
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    Default Re: CD and Vinyl Record Sales

    Thank you for your response, WF.

    There is no question vinyl is more popular than it’s been in 20+ years while CD sales have been in decline. My point is, however, CDs are still outselling vinyl. And it appears CDs are being replaced with streaming, not vinyl. Physical media in general make up a much smaller percentage of overall sales compared to streaming anyway.

    I’m in no way giving hipsters a bad rap, just pointing out that framing an album and hanging it on the wall isn’t indicative of its popularity as a listening medium for music. I honestly hadn’t thought much about the nostalgia factor, but if that plays a role then the vinyl surge may be more fleeting than I would have thought. Trends come and go.

    There is nothing artsy or nostalgic about CDs so if they are being bought, it’s surely for the music and nothing else.


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    Stuck on the Border WalshFan88's Avatar
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    Default Re: CD and Vinyl Record Sales

    Quote Originally Posted by Delilah View Post
    Thank you for your response, WF.

    There is no question vinyl is more popular than it’s been in 20+ years while CD sales have been in decline. My point is, however, CDs are still outselling vinyl. And it appears CDs are being replaced with streaming, not vinyl. Physical media in general make up a much smaller percentage of overall sales compared to streaming anyway.

    I’m in no way giving hipsters a bad rap, just pointing out that framing an album and hanging it on the wall isn’t indicative of its popularity as a listening medium for music. I honestly hadn’t thought much about the nostalgia factor, but if that plays a role then the vinyl surge may be more fleeting than I would have thought. Trends come and go.

    There is nothing artsy or nostalgic about CDs so if they are being bought, it’s surely for the music and nothing else.
    I think vinyl and streaming are what's replacing CDs. For most of the younger generation that isn't into it, streaming is the go to. No one even buys a song or album anymore from iTunes, although I'd argue that's still being done more than CDs. Spotify, Apple Music, etc are just making it too easy. Problem is while you can technically download it for offline access, you don't own it. You pay to have access to it. I'm a big believer in physical media be it movies on DVD or BluRay or albums on Vinyl or CD. I love tech, I pay for Spotify, and my family subscribes to literally every big name streaming service. But if I like it - I will own it.

    Nostalgia definitely plays a part in the vinyl resurgence. So doesn't young people who like classic rock. Even though it's the best sounding audio, people are buying it for nostalgia or so they can experience it.

    Same with vintage guitars. People want the guitars that Jimi Hendrix played or Jimmy Page played so they can live out the fantasy. Hey, go for it. I personally own two vintage Gibson guitars for the same reasons. Yes, the sound is different and IMO better, but it's really wanting to get closer to what made that music. That's why a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst guitar will cost a half of a million dollars. And if it's celebrity owned, it can fetch a million quite easily. Yes they are the best Les Pauls ever made, but no one would want them if Slash hadn't played one. Or if Joe Perry hadn't played one. That's what drives the market. Nostalgia, and wanting to own a piece of history and feel a part of it and live vicariously through it. I do it, and I know that's why people will pay crazy money for an old guitar that was like so and so used. Personally I will never own a 59 Burst, but I've been fortunate to put my hands on one at the Chicago Guitar Show. If you don't seem like a punk or a rough person, they'll let you play it even though they know you don't have any means or intention to buy it. Some dealers are pricks (*cough* George Gruhn *cough*), but the majority want the younger generation and just people as a whole to experience the guitar once.

    So I think older people being nostalgic and younger people either feeling like me and feel like they were born in the wrong era or just wanting the cool factor are definitely responsible for vinyl becoming desirable.
    -Austin-
    Resident Guitar Slinger
    Fan of the (real) Eagles 1972-2016
    #NOGLENNOEAGLES

    RIP Glenn Lewis Frey 1948-2016


  5. #5
    Moderator Brooke's Avatar
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    Default Re: CD and Vinyl Record Sales

    I remember when I bought my latest car (2016) I was shocked to find out there was no cd player. It had Sirius on it free for the first year, so it wasn't a big deal. But after that year I didn't subscribe to Sirius so there I was stuck with local FM/AM radio, which pretty much sucks, and my ipod. Only problem was I couldn't listen to my Christmas cds, which I dearly loved, or anything I hadn't loaded on my ipod. Bummer! (I still don't trust trying to load anything new on my ipod since my home computer crashed a year or so ago. Too scared I'll lose everything on my ipod which includes all my Eagles albums.)

    Back to topic on hand, I'm shocked vinyl is selling that well. I gave all my antique vinyls (excerpt Eagles) to our daughter years ago when our turntable died!) She's a vinyl/vintage lover. I do kinda miss playing them, but Pandora, Spotify and YouTube are so easy to use anymore I can't see me buying a new turntable. Maybe vinyl will eventually take over cds by the baby boomer/nostalgia market. They are cool to display! I have my Eagles and America vinyls framed for old times sake.
    https://i.imgur.com/CuSdAQM.jpg
    "They will never forget you 'till somebody new comes along"
    1948-2016 Gone but not forgotten

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    Border Rebel KingWalsh's Avatar
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    Default Re: CD and Vinyl Record Sales

    Ya I was bummed too when my new CRV didn't have a CD player either. Our local radio stations are very repetitive as well. I use spotify all the time.

    I have my old vinyls and in the process of displaying as well. My daughter is into them now. I love holding them and looking over the artwork, liner notes, lyrics pics etc. Something about actually having a physical copy you miss all that with technology.

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