Industry Experts Say Music Streaming, Vinyl Not Competitors

Although streaming may be hastening the end of the CD, it’s actually helping sales of vinyl. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported this year that 75 percent of the music revenue in the country comes from streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify. At the same time that CD sales have plummeted, vinyl sales have risen $2 million per year over the last three years. At a Making Vinyl conference in Detroit, experts said that streaming and vinyl are not competitive, but rather complementary.

Engadget reports that Gold Rush Vinyl founder/president Caren Kelleher, who was head of Google’s music-app partnerships, admitted that vinyl is “a completely inconvenient way to listen to music,” although she agrees with the assessment that it doesn’t vie head-to-head with streaming.

Intervention Records marketing vice president Jessa-Zapor Gray also points out that, at $30 per record, “vinyl is not a discovery format,” especially compared to services such as Tidal HiFi, which, at $20 per month, is the most expensive streaming subscription. Listeners are more likely to buy an album if they “form a connection with an artist you happened upon via streaming.”

“The best discoveries come from the unexpected,” said record-of-the-month club Vinyl Me Please chief executive Matthew Fiedler. Engadget notes that, “a friend of record-store clerk will offer personal recommendations out of left field,” whereas algorithms only deliver what the listener already likes.

A 2016 article in The Guardian reported that, “almost half of record buyers own a turntable they never use,” buying records to display like artwork in their homes. That finding resulted in “boutique labels like Mondo and others [embellishing] their album design.”

Some music fans also prefer to hear their favorites “without the compression of typical streaming bitrates,” even those under 25 who “grew up in the era of digital remasters, with CDs and MP3s as the dominant formats.” As streaming services grew in popularity, “digital left a void, and superfans wanted to start reconnecting with the music they loved.”