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CD Sales Continue To Plummet, Vinyl Records Soar 431

Lucas123 writes "Over the past four years, vinyl record sales have been soaring, jumping almost 300% from 858,000 in 2006 to 2.5 million in 2009, and sales this year are on track to reach new peaks, according to Nielsen Entertainment. Meanwhile, as digital music sales are also continuing a steady rise, CD sales have been on a fast downward slope over the same period of time. In the first half of this year alone, CD album sales were down about 18% over the same period last year. David Bakula, senior vice president of analytics at Nielsen Entertainment, said it's not just audiophiles expanding their collections that is driving vinyl record sales but a whole new generation of young music aficionados who are digging the album art, liner notes and other features that records bring to the table. 'The trend sure does seem sustainable. And the record industry is really doing a lot of cool things to not only make the format come alive but to make it more exciting for consumers,' Bakula said."
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CD Sales Continue To Plummet, Vinyl Records Soar

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  • by echucker ( 570962 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:23PM (#33693788) Homepage
    Nice lossy format to prevent clean ripping, too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      huh? Vinyl records are lossless...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:03PM (#33694064)

        Ever hear a needle scratching a blank track on a record? All that racket you're hearing is noise, i.e., signal you don't want. That noise level is present on every track on the record as well. The music covers it up.
        Note that the theoretical quality max based on quantization noise achievable by a standard CD is almost 30db better than a vinyl record. Full quality is not, of course, necessarily achieved in practice, but anyone telling you a record stores a perfect signal--or even a better signal than a CD--is way off.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rubycodez ( 864176 )

          The real world always has noise too.

          The digitizing process is lossy by the limited bit resolution per sample (even if we agree the sample rate is sufficient).

          As to sample rate, most real instruments make ultrasonics and infrasonics, those are left behind by a CD, and might be important even if not registered consciously.

          • Probably not (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @11:08PM (#33694654)

            Infrasonics a digital format can handle much better. Digital can go straight down to DC if you want it to. Most of the time you high pass the signal for various reasons (so you don't record things like A/C vibrations and such) but digital can handle it. Movies sometimes have infrasonics, bass down to the 10Hz region. I can generate sinewaves that are 0.01Hz for a CD if you like. Records can't handle that. Lows are a big weak point because of how they work. You aren't going to get a solid 20Hz signal like you do out of CD or DVD.

            Ultrasonics, well, not so much. First off, instruments really don't produce much up there. I've looked at spectra plots of high frequency recordings, there is just not much up there other than noise. You can see a chart that gives you a good idea of the range of instruments (

            Then you have to prove that we can perceive it. I've never seen any valid study that shows it.

  • by mlawrence ( 1094477 ) <> on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:29PM (#33693816) Homepage
    Smell is the sense that is tied to memory the strongest. I remember the smells of those records as much as I remember the sounds and the artwork. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Its a good point but there is also the issue or touch and the physical presence that vinyl and its packaging brings. Its possible to put a decent sized poster in vinyl, to use it as wall art - to actually have a presence in a room via your collection....CD still seems like "just a bunch or plastic".

      Personally though I still morn videodisc as a format, much for the same reasons but there I hold out little hope QQ

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think the fragility of vinyl lends some perceived value to it as well. I can toss a CD on the desk without much thought, but I would never do that with vinyl because of the risk of damaging it even with a tiny scratch.

        • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:16PM (#33694148) Homepage

          Nice observation. This is the kind of stuff that the dry analytics and reductionism of geeks/businessmen/economists sometimes miss. There are psychological aspects of value that can be very hard to quantify and run contrary to practical utility.

          In fact, I think one of the things that have lead to the decline in value of music overall is its ready availability and the immense practicality of the players. You don't have to take time out of your day to listen. You don't have to spend time thinking about music, choosing what to listen to. You aren't bound to stay in one place while you listen. You can stick your headphones in and hit "shuffle", and you're done.

          People don't value things that come easily.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by poptones ( 653660 )

            I have to disagree completely with your thesis: there are many FM radio stations whose loss I mourn greatly.

            No need to decide what to listen to; easily transported; convenient; available; don't need to take time out of your day to "listen."

            Apparently then, radio was the downfall of music... interesting.

  • by mevets ( 322601 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:32PM (#33693850)

    A 12" CD could hold about a dozen regular ones. Not only could you have big album art, but the spinning patterns would complement the bong quite nicely.

    • It was called LaserDisk. Of course they were 11.81 inches (30cm), not 12 inches, but that .19 inches shouldn't matter.
  • Disco record sales (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dbolger ( 161340 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:34PM (#33693870) Homepage

    Did you know that disco record sales were up 400% for the year ending 1976? If these trends continues... Aaay!

    • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:58PM (#33694340) Homepage

      Yes, but all those records were scratched up by hip-hop DJs in the mid 80's.

      That's why we need to start making records again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards ( 940851 )
      Except that was while disco was still sort of in. Vinyl was declared obsolete probably 2 decades ago. When I was a kid we were listening to them, but the focus was already on cassettes and CDs.

      Now were disco to be up by that margin in the mid 90s, that would be analogous.
    • I get the Disco Stu quote, but here's what a classic American humorist (Mark Twain) had to say about absurd extrapolation:

      “In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one

  • multi-track please (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:35PM (#33693876)

    What I'd personally love to see (or hear) is: multi-track audio... so that songs can be remixed more easily... I mean wouldn't it be cool if it were possible to mute a say trumpet track, and replace it by something else (human voice for example), or the other way around?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I mean wouldn't it be cool if it were possible to mute a say trumpet track, and replace it by something else (human voice for example), or the other way around?

      No. Mixing a song is a professional art, and wanting to take out of part of it is like taking out one parts of speech from a novel, or removing one color from a painting.

      In the instance that someone wants to setup a "mix playground", the end-user medium is NOT the right format. A multilayer data DVD would be a far better choice, although it would be best if targeted to a specific software mixer's format.

      • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:08PM (#33694098) Homepage

        Mixing a song is a professional art

        That's what They said about writing operating systems, and yet here I am happily compiling kernel modules for an OS developed largely by enthusiastic amateurs who learned by doing. Take my point?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Artifakt ( 700173 )

        There was a fellow on Usenet who posted using the nym "Mirror Spock". He took several recordings of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Sounds of Silence', including both separate tape tracks and premixed versions, and remixed from them all somehow or other. it seems that one version, Art Garfunkel was recovering from a cold and they shifted the harmony down a fifth or something like that so he could hit the notes, but like the basic release it had all of Bob Dylan's band including Glen Campbell as the studio musicians.

      • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:55PM (#33694326)

        No. Mixing a song is a professional art, and wanting to take out of part of it is like taking out one parts of speech from a novel, or removing one color from a painting.

        Yeah, I'm sure Moby got straight A's at Juilliard.

        You there, creating art without a license, halt, I say!

    • The trumpet was better than the guy trying to sound like a trumpet.

      OTOH some tunes are clearly written for the kazoo.

    • Few problem (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:05PM (#33694086)

      The minor technical, but a real consideration, is space. Say you have a pretty simple recording, just a jazz quartet. That is a minimum of 5 tracks, one for each instrument2 for the drums (stereo track). In reality if you wanted full control like at the studio, the drums would probably be anywhere between 6 and 15 tracks. This of course only increases with larger ensembles, and with the more fine grained control you want. You could easily have a song that is 32 mono and 32 stereo tracks. That would take 450MB per minute of audio. Storing all the data in a cheap format could be a real issue.

      A more major technical problem is all the processing needed. Mixes aren't just a bunch of tracks summed together. They have extensive processing done. While some of it is things done per track, and thus things that could be committed to the tracks on the medium, some of it is things done to the whole song. All of that would have to be done by the playback device. So in addition to heavy mixing hardware, it'd have to have a wide battery of effects that could be called on. OF course various musicians/producers wouldn't like it, because it would limit options. You'd have only the included effects as options and it wouldn't be upgraded.

      However the most major is that the industry doesn't want it. They don't want you able to easily remix their music. Such a thing would make it so much easier for someone to use parts of existing material for new uses, and they wouldn't want that, at least not without you contacting them for permission.

      Neat idea but never happen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards ( 940851 )
        More than that, when I do that sort of thing with images, I don't provide the individual parts because it causes other less obvious reasons. There is the space issue, but the bigger one is of artistic integrity. Sure it's cool to be able to remix somebody's stuff, but when you do that you're adding interpretation to somebody else's work which may or may not really be accurate.

        Sometimes that's cool, but it really takes a lot of trust to do it. Not just that it won't be exploited, but that people won't be
  • by 14erCleaner ( 745600 ) <> on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:36PM (#33693890) Homepage Journal
    CD sales are still roughly 100 times vinyl album sales; 110 million units for the first half of 2010.
  • by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:39PM (#33693912)

    I read an article in the past year or two saying the last one was manufactured in Russia around 1984.

  • If we say those numbers are for the US, and consider that the US population is on the order of 300 million, that makes for around 1 record sold for every 333 people (or 3 for every 1,000 people). They then roughly tripled these numbers, to around 1 per 110 people, or maybe 10 per 1,000 people.

    That still isn't really a ton of albums. I don't really know 110 people personally, so it is not statistically likely that I know someone in this country who bought a new album on vinyl this year.
  • They must have figured out some secretly horrible use for them we overlooked.

    # Must check drywall.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:51PM (#33693998)
    This just further proves it's piracy as the cause. Every audiophile knows that vinyl records are far higher quality than CDs. Pirates can only make inferior digital recordings of vinyl, so they don't bother. Thus, they are forced to buy the vinyl records. Since we see many-fold increase in vinyl sales, we have a glimpse of what CD sales would be like without piracy. So, vinyl is literally a natural DRM that both protects the artists and ensures superior sound quality. Now, would you like to buy some Monster USB cables? Guaranteed to improve your typing and mouse speed.
  • Cassette vs. CD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ceiynt ( 993620 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:55PM (#33694024)
    How did the industery react when cassette sales started to slip and CDs soared? Or when 8-track started to slip and cassette soared? Or, or, what ever came before whatever and the older format started slipping to the new format? Oh no, the old way to buy and listen to music is being replaced by the new was to buy and listen to music. I'm sure in 10-15 years they will be complaining because online sales are slipping to, something. *Gets my tin foil hat ready.*
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      are slipping to, something. *Gets my tin foil hat ready.*

      Maybe beaming music directly into your tin foil hat?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )

      How did the industery react when cassette sales started to slip and CDs soared?

      You really want to know? They jacked up the price of CDs, opened up their vault, republished every old artist, and told everyone to buy them on the new format! And we did, because the sound quality really was better, especially if you listen to classical music. Classical musicians really got excited about digital music.

      It gave them a nice boost in profits, because everyone was re-buying songs they already had. Then around 1998, when the profits from that boost started dropping, they blamed the drop on pir

  • I have CD's that i picked up less than 15 years ago that are unplayable, I had heard of laserdisc rot but didnt know it would happen to prerecorded cd's. On the other hand, I have vinyl that belonged to my father that still sounds great. I baby my collection but in a noticeable portion of my collection it seems that simply handling with care didnt matter.

    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @10:53PM (#33694594)

      That's very odd. I have CDs from the "early adopter" era (25ish years ago) that still play perfectly, and I have hardly been gentle with them, and some of them spent a lot of time in hot black cars in the warm California sun.

              Records, on the other hand, go noticeably over the hill after about 10 plays, and after about 2 plays if you don't wait 30 mins-hour between plays. I have seen data (actual real waveform and waterfall plots) showing that the high frequencies can disappear after the first play. And they have to be treated with extreme care or they can easily be ruined by someone just touching them wrong.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I have CD's that i picked up less than 15 years ago that are unplayable,

      This is not common. I have CDs that are about 24 years old that still play fine. Anyway, not sure what your CDs are, but it might be worth pointing out that there was a known problem on some pressings from 1988 to 1993 made by the PDO plant in the UK. This mostly effected classical CDs.

  • The reason is? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mikeiver1 ( 1630021 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @08:57PM (#33694032)
    The reasons are many for this. One reason is that though the CD cost of production has fallen the cost to the consumer has stayed the same or even risen. I for one refuse to pay that much for a CD when the majority of it goes to the record company and not the artist. Considering that DVDs are going for around $5-10 US and the cost of producing a movie is orders of magnitude greater I find the difference in prices hard to fathom. A second reason, Vinyl just plain sounds better most of the time. Save your technical BS for those that have not listened to the same track on both using good equipment. This is fact. SHUT IT! Third, downloaded digital music is fine but the quality sucks and the cost is even higher than that for the CD if you want the whole album/CD. Add in that some DL sites are using DRM and the smart people don't buy. DRM is a pain in the ass and only hurts the larger segment of the populace that just wants to listen to the music they have legally purchased. Very few share with others. Hay assholes, did you ever think that if you were not trying to RAPE the customer at every turn of their heads and sell the content at a reasonable price that more would be willing to pay for it? When the cost is less than the effort to steal the content then you will have a license to print money wholesale. Until then, people will work hard to circumvent any mechanisms you put in place if for nothing more than pure spite.
    • Re:The reason is? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by skine ( 1524819 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @10:21PM (#33694444)

      This is a response from Virgil Dickerson of Suburban Home Records and the Vinyl Collective to a Wired article written a few years ago about the "recent rise in vinyl sales." I think it covers fairly well why records are making a resurgence, while downplaying the hype surrounding it (it seems "vinyl comeback!" is a great rainy day article).

      Have fun reading.

      Wired recently published a piece called, “Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD’s Coffin”. It is an interesting look at Vinyl’s recent rise in popularity which has become a hot topic amongst various publications. Since this piece ran on Monday, I have had at least a dozen links to the story forwarded to me. I would like to offer my own thoughts on the post.

      I run a vinyl-only online store and vinyl imprint called Vinyl Collective. I started this in August of 2006 when I had a strong feeling that a focused vinyl site and community might receive a favorable response. I had been releasing vinyl through my label, Suburban Home, since the very beginning and as a music fan, I have long loved the format. I have released vinyl for bands like Every Time I Die, Minus the Bear, Fear Before the March of Flames, Portugal the Man, Drag the River, Tim Barry, and I have upcoming records coming out from Sparta, the Playing Favorites, Minus the Bear, Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Poison the Well, Portugal the Man, and more.
      As I type this on the final day of October, I can attest to the fact that Vinyl’s momentum is on the rise. Our sales for the month doubled what we did in September and September was previously our best month. We have been so busy that we have decided to hire a part-timer to help out with orders, a decision we were very careful in making as we recently downsized our operations in May of this year due to our declining revenue from CD sales.

      As much as I can back up Wired’s claim in a rise in vinyl sales, it is in no way the final nail in CD’s coffin. I offer the following data with a release we licensed for vinyl, Minus the Bear’s “Planet of Ice”. As of last week, the album has soundscanned 31,000 copies (digital and CD sales combined); we have sold nearly 3,000 copies of the double LP version of the album. I expect this album to soundscan around 100,000 copies by this time next year and IF we continue to repress the album on vinyl, it might be possible that we could do 10,000 copies on wax. I might also add that when speaking of Soundscan (they were quoted in the Wired piece as saying, “Our numbers, at least, don’t really point to a resurgence,”), they have no idea what they are talking about. I mentioned selling nearly 3,000 copies of “Planet of Ice” and you know how many were registered through Soundscan? Zero! I made the decision not to put a barcode on the record and have made no attempts to sell it to chain stores. Chain stores don’t know what to do with vinyl and I would rather indie stores make money off of my products. Nearly all of the records have been sold through the Vinyl Collective website or through mom and pop retailers, many of which don’t even report to Soundscan. Soundscan is an antiquated gauge of sales and only scratches the surface with regards to vinyl sales. Labels like No Idea, Fat Wreck, Death Wish, Bridge 9, Asbestos, and so many more sell a bulk of their vinyl pressings directly to customers and not one of them report those sales to soundscan.

      I would like to offer my opinion on why I think vinyl sales are on the rise. In this absolutely fucked up, fast paced world we live in, there is something therapeutic about physically picking up a needle, placing it on Side A of a record, and sitting back enjoying the music that comes out of your speakers. CDs and digital has made music disposable and of little to no value and in most cases, it has become background noise for our crazy lives. With vinyl, you have something real, something tangible, something with beautiful artwork, something that soun

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Vinyl just plain sounds better most of the time. Save your technical BS for those that have not listened to the same track on both using good equipment.

      Nobody can argue whether vinyl sounds better, that's a purely subjective judgment. Objectively, CDs are more accurate. It is fortunate for the vinyl fans that the distortions introduced by the format are pleasing to the ear.

      BTW, did you ABX when you tested vinyl vs CD? A test without a blind is useless.

  • Best of both worlds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:12PM (#33694122)

    I buy the vast majority of my albums on vinyl, even at a 5 or 10 dollar premium mainly because I love having a permanent physical copy, but the switch to almost a vinyl-only collection was when the record companies got wise to offering a digital download with the record. With the alternative usually being to just pirate it online and get the CD later and transcode, selling a vinyl with a digital download solves all my problems and the band usually gets a great deal more with record sales than CD sales. So it's a no brainer really, along with the other swag that goes along with it.

    • by Zinner ( 873653 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:58PM (#33694344)

      I buy the vast majority of my albums on vinyl, even at a 5 or 10 dollar premium mainly because I love having a permanent physical copy,

      I punch out my code on cards with an old IBM 026 keypunch because I love having a permanent physical copy...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Woah. What's the mix like on these digital downloads? Is it the blown-out compressed-to-fuck 3dB range CD mix, or is it the still-lower-than-a-CD's-dynamic-range vinyl mix? I assume they don't offer a lossless format, but if it's a high enough bitrate MP3 and decent mixes, I might just start buying digital music that comes with free frisbees.

  • by astro ( 20275 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @09:38PM (#33694236) Homepage

    ...vinyl records to CDs - compare vinyl vs. digital downloads thru i.e. iTunes. I recently mail-ordered Wilderness Heart by Black mountain (as an aside, GREAT record), which came with an immediate digital download of the record. I couldn't wait for the vinyl to arrive because I expected it to sound superior to the high-bitrate mp3s. It does. It's noticeable even to my far-from-audiophile wife.

    I'm admittedly a fetishist for packaging - double LPs with great gatefold art, colored / clear / marbled vinyl, large-format insert books, all the way to crazy triple and quadruple LPs with all of the above (i.e. Altar, by Boris and Sunn O))) ).

    If I can help it I buy nothing but vinyl now. And yes, I do have a USB turntable so (admittedly quite a bit more labor than with a CD) I can make properly tagged copies for listening to on my iPhone.

    • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @09:35AM (#33696348)

      You need to remember that digital downloads from iTunes and the Amazon MP3 Download service are using 256 kilobits per second minimum variable bit rate compression, and as such they're still inferior to the Compact Disc original for overall sound quality.

      A better comparison between an LP and digital format would be comparing an LP to audio encoded in Apple Lossless or Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) formats. Since Apple Lossless and FLAC are non-lossy compression formats, the audio quality should be excellent, and unlike LP's (which are subject to all kinds of mechanical issues like physical wear, wow and flutter, turntable rumble and needle mistracking) the sound quality will not degrade over time.,

  • Argh (Score:5, Funny)

    by SnowDog74 ( 745848 ) on Friday September 24, 2010 @10:59PM (#33694626)

    God damned hipsters.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And wanna-be audiophiles. Oooh, look at my fancy vinyl collection of all new music! Wow! OOoh, it's so much better than the CD version, with its digitally mastered, compressed audio! Sure, the music on the vinyl was digitally mastered, exactly like on the CD, but once it gets pressed to vinyl it magically transforms into an analog recording! Taking no chances, the line out from the record player and between all components is highest quality oxygen-free copper with solid gold plated connectors (truly a barga

  • by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:37AM (#33695128) Journal []

    Someone plays some rap record with a dixie cup and a thumbtack.

  • bah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:55AM (#33695164)
    This has nothing to do with audiofiles. I pirate all my music... but I own a record player and a lot of records. Why? Because it's fun to have a party and pull out records... or sit with my wife and listen to old comedy LPs. When I go to see a band live and they have an LP on sale, I buy it. I have no problem with supporting artists but selling me a digital copy of their song isn't going to work. Come to town, have a show, sell me a Tshirt and record. Work for my God damn money and you'll make a lot more than you ever did off the CDs. Musicians that suck live are a thing of the past.
  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @03:36AM (#33695440)
    While this may not apply to every record out there, and often flat out goes against some sales:

    CD: Cold Play - Viva la Vida $29AU Includes a booklet with micro sized font that makes lyrics very hard to read.
    Vinyl: Cold Play - Viva la Vida $35AU Includes a large easily readable booklet, centrefold art, a separate book of artwork, AND THE FRIGGING CD!

    I know people who don't have a turntable who still bought this one on vinyl.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer