For the Record: Vinyls versus CDs

A look into the rising sales and competition between vinyl and CDs


Magical music: As vinyl sales continue to grow many wonder why this form of music is growing back in popularity knocking out CDs of their former spot in sales. Graphic by: Ashlyn Steinbrink

Ashlyn Steinbrink, Reporter

In 2022, 41 million vinyl units were sold compared to 33 million CDs. Vinyl records made up a total of 70% of all physical music sales in 2022, bringing in a total of $1.2 billion in revenue, according to RIAA 2022 report on vinyl sales. This has led to many people wondering, why the sudden flux in sales of vinyl compared to the once more popular CD? While there could be many factors that play into the sudden change, the one that seems more apparent than the others is the change in generation. 

Vinyls came out in the 1930 (Coda Plastics) with the silent generation and grew in popularity until 1982 when CDs were invented. This then set a turning point from the Silent/Boomer generation preferred way of listening to music into Gen X growing preferred choice of CD. The first decline of vinyl sales was between 1988-1991 (Los Angeles Times), with sales turning towards more portable forms of music. It became the go to to have a CD ready to play music whether in the car or at a party; CDs unlike vinyl or even cassettes also gave people the option to burn them and put any music on them for a wide range of events, which made them more appealing to people. The usage of CDs continued to out beat the sales of vinyl until about 2022 when vinyl sales surpassed the sale of CDs for the first time since 1987, according to RIAA. Many people accredit this change to Gen Z.

 “People have always been interested in learning about and collecting old technology, memorabilia and culture. I think that a lot of Gen Z are especially fond of older music and therefore interested in vinyl,” Henry Bolmida (10) said. “Another reason I think that vinyl is coming back is because the younger generations who grew up with mostly digital music are now interested in older physical copies of music.” 

With Most of Gen Z being teenagers to young adults, they now have money to spend on things such as their preferred choice of music platform. According to Luminate’s 2022 annual report, Gen Z listeners were 25% more likely to purchase vinyl records than the average music listener. 

“I prefer vinyls because I think they can have a better sound on vinyl rather than CD and I think it’s fun putting the vinyl on the record player,” Benny Combs (11) said.

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My favorite vinyl that I own is between three. Either Louder Than Bombs by The Smiths, Adrenaline by Deftones or Contemporary Movement by Duster because I love them all and it’s hard to choose,

— Benny Combs (11) said. Image source: Vinyl Gram, J Wray Records and Shop Deftones

While plenty of people also enjoy vinyls for their sound, others prefer vinyl simply for the aesthetic appeal

“I think vinyls are being bought more than CD’s because a record player is more aesthetically appealing than a CD player,” Abby Spitzmiller (11) said.

While vinyls have grown back into popularity, some people are more hesitant to spend the money that goes into buying vinyl, such as storage, a record player, cleaning supplies, vinyls themselves etc.The average price of a vinyl is at least $20 and the average price of CD is $12-15. The average cost of a good vinyl player can be anywhere between $250-$500 and the average cost of a good CD player can range from $20-$50. 

“I think that the price of vinyl is definitely justified. Mass producing CD’s is all digital work whereas vinyl is made by physically making a copy of the music,” Henry Bolmida (10) said.

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My favorite vinyl that I own is Willoughby’s beach by KGLW,

— Henry Bolmida (10) said. Image source: ATO Records

Despite vinyls making a comeback, CDs still have the upper hand when it comes to convenience. Imagine trying to lug around vinyls, a record player and the possible cords that come along with it. Not only is that a hassle, but you risk damaging your special vinyls. So when you look at CDs with that in mind, they seem a whole lot more appealing. 

“Convenient wise, a CD is perfect for a car because who wants to carry that huge thing around. Nobody!” Morgan Ott (11) said.

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My favorite vinyl that I own is my original Abbey Road record by the Beatles. It’s so unique and fun to say I own,

— Morgan Ott (11) said. Image source: Music Direct

We can see that vinyl tramples CDs in sales and is rising in popularity as our interviewees attest to that. If you yourself participated in the rising sales of vinyls or if you strongly think CDs are better let us know in the comments.