Friday, January 17, 2020

We Are The 4%: Why Vinyl Outselling CD's Is Actually Quite Depressing!

Towards the end of last year, there were a handful of articles proclaiming a full-on vinyl resurgence, touting sales numbers from the first half of 2019 tat confirmed vinyl sales ($224 million) were on-par to surpass CD sales ($248 million).

Keep in mind the very same music industry that is currently singing vinyl's praises is the very same one that killed the format in the first place.  Guiltiest of all was Sony, who not only hoped to profit from the sales of CD players, but, after acquiring CBS Records in 1987, but CD's as well.

This was no secret to those of us who kept track of such things in the pre-internet age and left quite a bad taste in the mouths of those music consumers with the longest memories and a penchant for banging out computer code in their sleep.

Having screwed consumers, it was only a matter of time before the labels turned on the very retailers that had always kept the industry afloat through thick and thin.

Who can forget when Best Buy started selling CD's at below-cost in hopes of luring customers into their stores stocked with expensive home appliances and entertainment systems? By using CD's as a loss leader, the big-box retailer hoped to move expensive appliances and entertainment systems.

Record retailers were the first to cry foul, but the major labels remained oddly silent.

One need not be a detective to see why Sony (you know, the same label that bought CBS Records) was so tight-lipped. As a manufacturer of TV's, stereos and other gadgetry, they stood to profit the most from Best Buy's scheme to use CD's as a loss leader.

Lo and behold, along comes the internet. Suddenly, there is a whole new avenue for music sales and promotion, but it still takes five minutes for a .jpg to load. A few years later, though, even your Aunt Marge has high-speed internet so when Napster comes along, everybody's getting in on the action.

Whatever moral qualms we may have initially had about illegal downloads were quickly smothered by our desire to stick it to the very music industry that had gone out of their way to force us down a dead-end digital path in the first place.

Those who take vinyl's comeback as a sign that the music industry has learned some hard lessons and is once again embracing physical product need only realize that vinyl sales still only account for 4% of all revenue, with 60% coming from paid subscriptions to streaming services.

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