Vinyl sales outstrip CDs for the first time in 34 years

Sennheiser have reported that in September 2020 vinyl sales had surpassed those of the CDs by quite some margin. This was the first time in 34 years the original “music discs” dominated the market.

Records organised by artist in a store

Vinyl offers an incredibly rich sound, a format which is tactile and hard to ignore, and when combined with the cover and liner notes creates a real experience Spotify wishes it could provide. The challenge of getting the needle just right, flipping the album over between fingers, and carefully sliding the album in and out all adds to the drama.

Man carefully blowing dust off a record

Even the humble cassette has something going for it. Portable and flawed, it too had character. Attempting to fast forward (not skip!) to the next song just after the previous song was a real skill. Cassettes allowed the invention of mix tapes, personalising a playlist and gifting to friends allowing us to become DJs of sorts. The liner notes where almost book-like at times with lyrics and other stories hidden within.

Both of these formats offering amazing canvases with which to be creative.

Sennheiser reckon there are a few reasons why album sales have picked up again: 

1. Vinyl enthusiasts are just wired differently.

Vinyl listeners are much more immersed in the music, something that staying at home (working or otherwise) has given us the opportunity to be more engaged with a record.

2. Vinyl fans are younger than we think.

According to Scott Hagen, CEO of turntable manufacturer Victrola, 60% of millennials (that weird bunch between the ages of 18 and 29) now own a turntable and buy records regularly.

3. Vinyl is a future-proof investment.

There are a constant stream on re-issues but still plenty of special editions floating about the place. In 2020, a record of more than 800,000 pressings were sold in a single day. Rare releases are also sought after and going up in value.

4. Vinyl can change our listening habits.

The ease at which we skip on digital formats is simply not present with vinyl, forcing us as listeners to do just that: listen. Sennheiser also point out the cost of creating albums in the past meant more effort was put in to making it a great album, something we’ve known since CDs flooded the market.

5. Vinyl is more profitable.

The cost of vinyl seems to be working in its favour, much like a luxury product. Despite being up to four times the cost of a CD, it doesn’t seem to matter. 

As always, whenever there’s new technology which threatens to change the way we do something, rarely does it ever completely eradicate the status quo. Instead we learn to value the good things in all formats, giving us choices.

Do you own a record player? What other formats do you use?

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