This should surprise absolutely nobody who pays attention to music sales — or actually buys music in 2019, but vinyl is on pace to outsell CDs in 2019 based on the 1H 2019 sales data just published by the RIAA.
If you spend a lot of time in record stores, or online streaming, this “earthquake” isn’t really news.
CD sales (and digital downloads) have been in a downward spiral for a few years as consumers have adopted digital streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Apple Music, and YouTube as their primary platform for listening to music.
In the grand scheme of things, 8.6M new record sales in 1H was a great number for those who sell vinyl and turntables, but still represents a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of overall music sales. You can put as many pretty bows as you want on 4% marketshare — but it’s still only 4% with streaming headed past 80% in H1 2019. That number will hit 90% very quickly putting even more sales pressure on CDs and digital downloads.
CD sales are stronger outside of the North American market (Japan, China, India), but the format is not in good shape.
A recent trip to Princeton Record Exchange to buy records and used movies uncovered a new trend — absolutely insane prices for used audiophile CDs. Used CD titles from MoFi, JVC XRCD, Sony Mastersound, DCC, and other audiophile labels were fetching between $30-150 each.
SACD titles were also fetching between $40-150 each for rare or out-of-print titles.
There was a light layer of dust accumulating on the expensive used CDs so the demand may not be as strong as the retailer may think.
The reality is that there are more companies manufacturing turntables in 2019 than new CD players. It’s probably a good time to purchase that last CD player while brands like NAD, Rega, Cambridge Audio, Naim, Audiolab, Marantz, Yamaha, and Denon are still making them.
Those of us who ripped our CD collections to music servers years ago and have invested a lot of money in streamers, and external DACs — know that HDDs can fail at any time. With 1,900 CDs in neatly arranged photo albums, it would probably be wise to take our own advice and pony up for a CD player or transport. Especially because CDs can sound better than any streaming service. Sometimes.