Groovy! Vinyl records will soon outsell CDs for first time since 1986

Let the music play.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper

Revenge never sounded so sweet: When it comes to sales, vinyl records are finally turning the tables on CDs.

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Hit that needle-scratch sound effect. Sales of vinyl records may soon start generating more annual income than compact discs for the first time since 1986, Rolling Stone reported on Friday.

1986? Yep, 1986, the year when top-selling albums included Madonna's True Blue, Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet, and the Top Gun soundtrack. Take my breath away, indeed.

Not only have vinyl albums enjoyed constant growth in recent years, Rolling Stone reports, but CD sales have plummeted, according to the Recording Industry Association of America's 2019 midyear report.

CD sales are still ahead of vinyl sales, but barely, and dropping fast. Vinyl records earned $224.1 million over the first six months of 2019, selling 8.6 million units. CDs earned $247.9 million, selling 18.6 million units. Rolling Stone says last year's RIAA report shows CD sales are declining three times as fast as vinyl sales are growing.

Just because vinyl may soon outpace CDs doesn't mean music lovers are trading in their iTunes accounts for turntables. Streaming remains the most popular way to consume music, accounting for 80% of industry revenues, and growing 26%, to $4.3 billion, for the first half of 2019.

Read: Best turntables under $300