Retro music boom pushes vinyl record sales over $1 billion for the first time in 35 years

Their sales jumped 61% last year to $1 billion, the most since 1986, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said on Thursday.

At the same time, compact disc sales jumped 21% to $584 million, marking the first year-over-year increase since 2004, the report added.

The retro music comeback is a consequence of growing nostalgia for old formats and the unique sound quality of vinyl.

Digital streaming services like Spotify and digital music formats like MP3’s typically “compress” sound files to reduce their size, making them more consumer friendly. But that compression also reduces the audio quality, as rock icon Neil Young has long complained.

But as The New York Times has noted, record labels have had a difficult time producing enough vinyl records to meet demand, because of a limited number of pressing plants and aging machinery. As a result, brand-new vinyl records can often be expensive.

Despite vinyl’s continued rise in popularity, streaming music still dominates the music business. Streaming brought in $12.4 billion in 2021, representing 83% of the music industry's total of $15 billion in recording revenue for the year. Streaming includes music services such as Spotify and Apple Music in addition to music licenses for fitness and other apps, including TikTok.

The RIAA's latest report is its first to include music revenue from TikTok's U.S. operations. But the organization didn't provide a specific music revenue from the service.