business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Recording Industry Association of America yesterday said that for the first time since 1987, vinyl records are outselling CDs.

There were 41 million vinyl records sold in 2022, compared to about 33 million CDs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that "revenue from vinyl records rose 17% to over $1.2 billion last year, the 16th straight year of growth for the format and nearly double what it was two years ago. Vinyl albums accounted for 71% of physical format revenue, which includes items like CDs, cassettes and DVDs, and 7.7% of overall revenue, RIAA said. 

CD revenue fell 18% last year to $483 million, RIAA said. 

"Vinyl’s resurgence is coinciding with continued growth in streaming, a category which includes Spotify Technology S.A., Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and others. Streaming, which includes paid subscriptions, ad-supported services and on-demand apps, among others, made up 84% of the industry’s revenue, RIAA said."

The Journal also writes that "vinyl’s resurgence has been years in the making, fueled mainly in the U.S. by indie-rock fans convinced of LP’s superior sound quality and young people attracted to the nostalgia of playing records. 

"The consistent demand has turned record making into a largely artisanal industry, with some buyers asking for novelty LPs - multicolored, scented, glow-in-the-dark - that add to the cachet of owning vinyl."

I think there's a lesson for every retailer here - that even in toughening economic times, quality has a role to play.

Vinyl records certainly are more expensive than CDs, and streaming can give one access to a lot more music for a lot less money.  But because there is a broad perception, backed up by audiophiles, that vinyl offers a better listening experience, the format is growing.

Why?  Because a percentage of music lovers see value in that.

Value is not always the same as low price.  And retailers have the opportunity - even the responsibility - to communicate this message to their shoppers.  It is a way of competing with those formats that only focus on lower prices and bring business models with lower costs to the battle.

The current competitive battle, even in these economic circumstances, does not have to be a constant drive to the bottom.  Savvy retailers can find ways to inspire, especially among consumers hungry and thirsty for an Eye-Opening aspirational message.