Chart: Despite Comeback, Vinyl Is Still Far From Its Glory Days

Music lovers around the world will come together on Saturday to celebrate Record Store Day. Conceived in 2007 to highlight the cultural significance of independent record stores and celebrate vinyl record culture, the occasion is now widely honored with live performances, special vinyl releases, artist meet-and-greets and other events taking place at record stores across the globe. One of the original objectives of Record Store Day – keeping vinyl records alive – is no longer a priority though, as they are alive and well.

Continuing one of the more surprising comebacks of the digital age, vinyl album sales in the United States have grown for the 17th consecutive year in 2023. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), 43.2 million EPs/LPs were sold in the U.S. last year, up from less than a million in 2006, when the vinyl comeback began.

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? Vinyl LPs accounted for more than 40 percent of album sales in the United States last year, which is quite substantial. Factoring in streaming and downloads of single tracks, however, that number drops to less than 5 percent of album equivalent music consumption, which puts things in perspective. According to RIAA, vinyl records accounted for 8 percent of record music revenues in the U.S. last year, as streaming continues to be the industry’s biggest moneymaker by far. Moreover, as our chart illustrates, vinyl is still far away from its glory days in the 1970s, when more than 300 million LPs and EPs would be sold in a single year.

However big or small the impact of rising LP sales on the music industry’s bottom line may be, it’s fascinating to witness a hundred year-old technology come back from near extinction. Physical goods, it appears, still hold value for many people, even in the digital age. Interestingly, vinyl LPs appear to have become a bit of collectors’ item for fans, who listen to music digitally but still want to own a physical object: according to Luminate, only 50 percent of vinyl buyers actually have a record player.

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