Americans are spending more on vinyl records than CDs for the first time since the 1980s


US music-lovers are spending more money on vinyl records than CDs for the first time since the 1980s, new data shows.

LP and EP sales totalled $232.1 million in the first half of 2020 — almost 80% more than the total revenue for CD sales, which stood at $129.9 million, according to estimates from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The plunging popularity of CDs, rather than a surge in vinyl buying, caused the change: Revenues from record sales only increased by 3.6% over six months, but CD sales plummeted by 47.6%. 

The best-selling vinyl albums in the first half of 2020 included releases by Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, and Queen's "Greatest Hits" album, as well as the "Guardians of the Galaxy" soundtrack, data from Nielsen Music and MRC Data shows. Five of the 10 best-selling vinyl albums were released before 2000.

Only two of the best-selling vinyl albums were also on the list of overall best-selling albums, which was topped by K-pop band BTS, followed by The Weeknd. 

Even though more CDs were sold by unit between January and June, records have a significantly higher price. Around 8.8 million records were sold, and 10.2 million CDs, down more than 8 million compared to the same period in 2019.

In total, only 7% of all music revenue came from physical sales, rather than streaming or digital downloads.

Downloads drop too

Significantly fewer people downloaded music digitally on sites such as iTunes in the first half of 2020, RIAA data showed. Revenues at these sites fell by 22.2% compared to the year before, it reported. 

Customers have instead turned to digital subscription and streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, and the revenue from these platforms was up 12.0% year-on-year — accounting for 85% of all recorded music sales.

Overall, total income from recorded music in the first six months of 2020 was $5.6 billion, RIAA estimated, a 5.6% increase on the same time period in 2019.

The live music industry hasn't fared as well. More than half of the music industry's total revenue comes from live music — and after lockdown began, income from concerts was almost zero, the World Economic Forum reported. Some artists have instead turned to paid-for virtual concerts or socially distanced outdoor gigs.