An insight into physical music buyers: Understanding the American market for CDs and vinyl
May 31st, 2023, Bhavika Bansal

An insight into physical music buyers: Understanding the American market for CDs and vinyl

As per the findings of a recent Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) report, the US saw the sale of 41 million vinyl albums and 33 million CDs in 2022. Accounting for almost three-fourths of all physical format revenues, vinyl sales grew 17% to reach USD 1.2 billion, outselling CDs for the first time since 1987. 

In light of this surge in popularity of physical musical formats, this analysis looks at the lasting appeal of vinyl and CDs amongst Americans. Data from YouGov Profiles reveals that nearly half of Americans (48%) say they like to purchase physical copies of their music – a significantly higher percentage than their neighbors in the UK (40%).

Interestingly, more than half (53%) of the youngest cohort of Americans (18-24-year-olds), who missed out on the pre-digital heyday of music shopping, say they like having a hard copy of their music purchases. While an equal proportion of 35-44-year-old respondents share the same opinion (53%), this proportion falls to slightly more than two-fifths amongst those aged 55 and above (43%).

American men are also markedly more likely to buy physical copies of their choice of music compared to American women (52% vs. 44%).

Interestingly, rock music (49%) tops the list of top ten favorite music genres amongst American consumers who like to own physical copies of their music. In a distant second, pop music is a favorite amongst slightly more than a third of the respondents (35%) followed by country music (34%), classical music (31%) and R&B music (31%). 

A favorite amongst just a fifth of Americans who like to buy CDs and vinyl, Christian music (20%) brings up the rear of the list.

The data also reveals some interesting differences when it comes to Americans’ attitudes towards other paid musical experiences, streaming services and the release of music exclusively on a single platform.

Seven out of ten Americans who like purchasing CDs and vinyl (70%) indicate that they are happy to spend money to support their favourite music artists compared to a little more than half of Americans overall (52%).

Those who like to buy physical copies of music are also likelier to enjoy seeing their favourite music artists live than the general American population (76% vs 62%).

While almost two-thirds of hard-copy buyers (64%) find it frustrating when music is released exclusively through one platform this proportion falls when it comes to the overall population (54%). And despite liking physical formats they are actually more likely to use streaming services as their primary source of music than Americans overall (62% vs. 59%).

However, is this affinity for physical albums and paid musical experiences likely to translate into willingness to pay? And if so, how does the willingness to pay for CDs and vinyl differ from the willingness to pay for other music formats?

A look at adults in the US who are likely to purchase music in the next 12 months reveals that more than half of them are willing to pay for music on CD (53%) and via downloads (52%), while exactly half (50%) will pay for online streaming.

While one in four of respondents they are willing to pay for music via dedicated Music TV channels (27%) and online radio (25%), two-fifths say they are willing to do the same for music on traditional radio (22%). 

Despite vinyl notably overtaking CD sales in the US in 2022, Americans seem more willing to pay for CDs (52%) than vinyl records (44%).

Does this spell trouble for vinyl sales in the coming year or will vinyl continue to find more takers than CDs? Only time will tell. In any case, it is evident that physical music formats seem here to stay and remain popular among American consumers of all generations.

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Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data for the US is nationally representative of the online population and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about Profiles.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash