Let’s Rant: Vinyl vs. CDs

by The Cowl Editor on October 4, 2018

Arts & Entertainment

by: Peter Keough ’20 A&E Staff

Vinyl records are outperforming CDs in the physical music industry. In a world dominated by streaming giants like Apple Music and Spotify, it is difficult to envision physical copies of music holding a seat at the table. However, in the realm of physical music, an interesting revolution is taking place: vinyl records, once popular before the advent of CDs, are now in the midst of a full-scale resurgence. 

Vinyl CDs Comparison

In his opening remarks of the “Recording Industry Association of America Mid-Year 2018 Revenues Report,” RIAA President Mitch Glazier states that, “Music continues its comeback story, powered by great new music, talented artists and a re-invented record industry.” And according to the statistics presented in this mid-year report, Glazier has evidence to back up this claim.

Based on these RIAA stats, there has been a 12.6 percent increase in the number of units shipped of physical EP (extended play) and LP (long play) vinyl records. Similarly, the dollar value of these records increased by a margin of 12.8 percent from the first-half report from 2017. 

Conversely, the sales of CDs declined drastically from the first half of 2017. The RIAA reports a 46.9 percent decrease in units shipped, as well as a 41.5 percent decrease in dollar value of this physical form of music. 

So, while the CD begins to fade into the background of the world of physical purchases, traditional vinyl-pressed records keep these forms of music relevant. Amy X. Wang of Rolling Stone writes, “Vinyl…is breeding optimism in the industry.” She continues on to quote Jack White, ex-White Stripes musician and vinyl advocate, as stating, “I definitely believe the next decade is going to be streaming plus vinyl – streaming in the car and kitchen, vinyl in the living room and den. Those will be the two formats.” 

What Wang and White are claiming is a widely-held sentiment among fans of vinyl. Given the superior sound quality and nostalgia associated with physical EPs and LPs, many believe that the sale of vinyl will continue to rise in the years to come. These optimistic fans believe that records are coming back, and that they are coming back in a big way. If the trends highlighted in this RIAA report continue in the way that they are going, people like Wang and White just might be correct.