Hipsters Won: Revenue from Vinyl Sales Exceeded Revenue from Free Streams and YouTube in 2015


You know how, like, everybody was questioning the new, cool “trend” of young people, aka hipsters, buying outdated tech like record players and vinyl, and how that trend would die and was superfluous? Well, that could all be true, but thanks to a new report from the Recording Industry Association of America that shows massive profits from vinyl sales, it certainly seems that more than just Brooklynites are buying the stuff.

The figures (via Fact) aren’t depressing, really, given that music revenue in 2015 was up nearly 1%, to roughly $7 billion. (Music is not dead, etc.) They are surprising, though, because revenue generated by our most common means of music consumption — via the web, on YouTube and Spotify and Pandora and iTunes and Apple Music and (ha) Tidal — don’t even add up to be greater than the revenue generated by sales of vinyl, a thing that was supposed to be irrelevant two decades ago.

The sale of 17 million vinyl albums generated $416 million and free streams generated $385 million. Huh.

The RIAA also issued a statement on Medium, which mentioned that the growth in the number of ad-supported streams grew exponentially while the revenue generated by ad-supported streams barely grew at all, leading the author of the statement, the RIAA’s CEO and Chairman Cary Sherman, to say, “This is why we, and so many of our music community brethren, feel that some technology giants have been enriching themselves at the expense of the people who actually create the music.”

So, it looks like the hipsters have won. Or, maybe Lars Ulrich won? Or maybe the winner is just YouTube (Google), which is always a safe bet.