Image credit: Eric Krull

CDs and vinyl show a funny start to 2023, whilst streaming leads record growth.

The music industry has changed a lot since the turn of the century. As revenues soar to their highest point in history, we’re still not sure whether to hold on to or ditch the old physical methods of listening to music.

We have seen what the RIAA describe as a “decade of transformation” in which music streaming saved the music industry from the brink after the internet brought music piracy to the front and CD sales plummeted. Now, music streaming is the leading method of music consumption and has driven a record high for the US music industry.

But are people still listening to music that they can hold in their hands? Yes and no. The H1 report from the RIAA shows some funny findings for physical music.

On the one hand physical music is at its highest level in a decade, with a resurgence in popularity for vinyl records leading 72% of physical sales. On the other hand, the first half of 2023 saw a -7.8% decrease in units shipped across physical music.

Image credit: RIAA

The RIAA doesn’t comment on the discrepancy between unit sales and overall physical revenues. High levels of inflation and the increasing value of vinyl may have allowed for rising revenues in the face of fewer people buying records in a difficult year for the economy. The end of year results should reveal more as to where physical music stands in 2023.

Before this report, vinyl sales had been steadily increasing in the digital age whilst CDs have been slowly disappearing, though hanging on. H1 2023 represents the third year in a row that vinyl has outsold CDs in the US. It’s thought that as listeners go digital, vinyl has become more of a collector’s item; a way for fans to physically represent the music they love, even if they don’t use those records.

Why do you think that unit sales have dropped for physical music this year? Leave us a comment below.