Vinyl Sales Soar as U.S. Music Revenues Drop

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 09.26.14 in News

The latest U.S. music industry check-up shows vinyl album sales continue to be modest but vibrant, while revenues for the business overall remain in flagging health. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl sales were up 43 percent by value for the first six months of 2014, to what The New York Times reports as $146 million. That’s just a tiny drop in the ocean, though, for an industry where overall revenues of $3.2 billion were down almost 5 percent from the same period last year.

Growth in streaming services countered a decline in download sales, so the total value of digital formats was about flat at $2.2 billion, according to the RIAA. Digital downloads fell 12 percent by revenue to $1.3 billion, with 54.3 million digital albums sold, compared with 61.3 million in the first half of last year. Streaming music services were up 28 percent, though, to $859 million. Within this category, paid subscriptions jumped 23 percent to $371 million. It’s all just another sign that streaming may soon overtake digital sales of music, at least among U.S. listeners — and another factor in the fight over digital radio royalties.

All physical formats combined made up just 21 percent of the revenue pie, compared with 41 percent for downloads and 27 percent for streaming. That’s mainly CDs: The shiny discs represents 80 percent of physical shipments. According to the Times, though, the value of CD sales tumbled 19 percent to $716 million. Out of all U.S. music revenues (digital and physical), vinyl accounted for almost 5 percent.

The numbers from the RIAA, the U.S. music industry trade group, flesh out what we previously learned from Nielsen SoundScan’s mid-year report. According to SoundScan, the number of albums sold overall in the United States this year through June 29 fell 15 percent compared with the same period last year. Vinyl albums sold 40 percent more copies, though, while on-demand streaming rose 42 percent. Leading the mid-year albums charts, meanwhile, were the Frozen soundtrack, Beyoncé‘s self-titled album and Eric Church‘s The Outsiders. Among vinyl albums, Jack White‘s Lazaretto is the runaway leader of the pack.

For those about to celebrate Cassette Store Day this weekend, we salute you, but the RIAA’s latest report didn’t include tape revenues, which are no doubt still pretty miniscule at this point. And while Urban Outfitters has yet to respond to requests for further details about an executive’s statement to analysts that it’s the world’s biggest vinyl music seller, the RIAA’s numbers don’t shed any more light there, either — they’re not broken out by retailer.

RIAA music sales