Music fans pushed sales of vinyl albums and surpassed CDs, even as pandemic stadium tours were canceled

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The coronavirus pandemic may have sidelined pop stars from live performances, but music fans’ interest has not waned.

Music consumption in the first half of the year has remained robust even without the sold-out stadium tours, according to a new report. While on-demand audio streaming is up 15%, consumers are also looking for more tangible collectibles like vinyl albums, which continue to outpace CD sales.

In the first six months of 2021, 19.2 million vinyl albums were sold, more than 18.9 million CDs more than 18.9 million, according to MRC Data, an analytics firm specializing in data collection from the entertainment and music industries.

Vinyl has been slowly making a comeback in recent years. In 2020, vinyl trumped annual CD sales in the US for the first time in 34 years, the Recording Industry Association of America reported.

That trend will continue in 2021. The number of vinyl LPs sold increased by 108% in the first six months of the year, compared to 9.2 million in the same period in 2020.

“In these unprecedented times, it’s the labels and artists’ continued focus on fan connection through collectible, customized offerings, the addition of incredibly strong hip-hop and pop releases that convert new generations into vinyl fans, and the never-ending reason for the rise of vinyl: it’s eternally cool,” said Billy Field, vice president of sales and vinyl strategist at WEA, the artist and label services division of Warner Music Group.

The best-selling mid-year vinyl albums are Taylor Swift’s “Evermore”, Harry Styles’ “Fine Line”, Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid MAAD City” and Billie Eilish’s “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

Swift’s “Evermore” had the highest single-week vinyl sales in MRC Data’s 30-year history, with over 100,000 copies. The previous record holder was Jack White’s “Lazaretto”, which sold 40,000 in the first week of 2014.

The growth in vinyl comes at a time when the music industry is struggling to keep up with demand amid production setbacks caused by the pandemic.

For example, MRC Data refers to Ariana Grande’s album “Positions,” which was released for streaming services on October 30, 2020, but didn’t become available on vinyl until April 9, 2021. Sales increased by 1.614% that week, as 32,000 copies of the album were sold. That was the third-highest week of vinyl sales for an album since MRC Data began following the format in 1991.

MRC Data expects a similar increase when Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” is released on vinyl in late July and when Swift’s “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” is released in November.

The report also noted how NFTs, or non-replaceable tokens, have become a new revenue stream for artists to distribute music and artwork. From February 25 to April 25 this year, musicians collected approximately $55.7 million in NFT sales, according to a report by Water & Music.

NFTs are just the latest trend for monetizing music, expanding the earning potential of artists beyond streaming, traditional music sales and concert ticket sales.

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