The music business is in a strange state right now – CD sales are falling like a rock with physical music being replaced by buying and downloading MP3s or, increasingly, not buying the music at all, but listening to it through a streaming service like Pandora or Spotify.
Digital music sales decreased for the first time ever in 2013, falling 5.7% down to 1.26 billion units sold. The sale of physical CDs dropped 14% down to 165 million units sold. As you can see from the numbers, CDs are accounting for less than 10% of music sales.
The one bright spot is Vinyl. In 2013, records hit at 22-year sales high jumping 32%. Now LPs account for only about 2% of physical sales with around 6 million units. But that kind of growth is impressive in a market where consumers don’t seem to want to permanently buy anything.
Unlike the digital world where giants like iTunes dominate sales, the majority of albums are sold at independent music stores.
Finders Records, located in the town of Bowling Green where I went to college back in the 1980s, kicked off the school year by telling returning students that they should grab a turntable for their dorm room and offering a discount on albums.
A large display in the middle of the store showed off retro-designed turntables. And while vinyl customers may or may not be as enthusiastic as the customers shown in this photo from their Facebook page, this does seem to be the one area of the music business where customers are willing to spend MORE money than they have in the past on purchases.
Checking out Amazon’s list of upcoming Vinyl releases (which lists an impressive 306 results), I found the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy. Since this consists entirely of 1970s music, buying it on Vinyl seems like the right thing to do.
You don’t have to give up on digital music to enjoy vinyl either. Amazon is offering its AutoRip feature for some records. Buy the vinyl and they’ll upload the digital version of the music to the cloud giving you the best of both worlds.
Records are not cheap these days. Prices run about double the cost of CDs and sometimes triple the cost of digital albums. Records these days are definitely a luxury item. But collectors say that vinyl records have a better sound and it’s really hard to impress someone by showing off your large Pandora playlist. A music room with a sweet stereo and a wall of albums on the other hand…that’s cool. It could just be that having lived their lives without owning music as a physical media, young consumers like the idea of something you can hold in your hands.