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Vinyl records are now outselling CDs after decades and it feels like time is turning back

There may be smartphones or iPods nowadays, but numbers show that vinyl records are loved by people as much as the digital medium.

Vinyl records are now outselling CDs after decades and it feels like time is turning back
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Matthias Groeneveld

By the late 1980s, vinyl records seemed to be replaced by electronic music media like cassettes, CDs, DVDs, and phones. However, vinyl has made an incredible comeback in the past decade. Not only are stars like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Olivia Rodrigo selling vinyl albums, but everyday people are also showing a preference for these vintage-style records. According to the latest figures from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl records outsold CDs again this year.

Image Source: RIAA (2023)
Image Source: RIAA (2023)

This marks the 17th consecutive year of growth in vinyl sales. Sales increased by 10% to $1.4 billion in 2023, according to the report. In 2022, vinyl albums outsold CDs in units for the first time since 1987, and 2023 continued this trend. Vinyl recorded 43 million sales, compared to 37 million for CDs. In 2022, these figures were 41 million for vinyl and 33 million for CDs, according to the RIAA report.

Image Source: RIAA (2022 report)
Image Source: RIAA (2022)

The 2022 report indicated that vinyl demand rebounded after the 2021 pandemic when people were stuck at home. While streaming dominated the music industry, the demand for physical music formats has surged in recent years. In 2017, physical format music outsold digital downloads by a 3% margin.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | muffin
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Muffin

There are several reasons behind the rise in vinyl sales. First, artists like Taylor Swift are embracing this medium, attracting their fans to follow suit.


Secondly, Gen Z is increasingly interested in listening to music on vinyl rather than electronic formats, according to a survey of people born from 1997 to 2012. Additionally, vinyl is often cheaper than CDs and iPods. Another reason for the vinyl resurgence is the superior listening quality. Vinyl offers analog sounds that create a warm ambiance, which digital media can't replicate.

Sound engineer Adam Gonsalves explained that the mid-range sound in vinyl offers a more pleasant, warmer experience for the ears, especially noticeable when listening to classic rock artists like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd. This warmth is a scientifically backed sonic phenomenon.

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