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Music, vinyl surpasses CD after 30 years

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“You again? But weren’t we supposed to see each other again? ” It is not the famous “she” of the song by Lucio Battisti that we are addressing here, but rather an object that a little more than 20 years ago we gave up for dead and instead is taking its beautiful revenge: the dear old vinyl record, long-lived music diffusion support that went out of production in ’93 and here in Italy, after 30 years, returns to overtake the CD among the sales segments. This is revealed by the data elaborated by Deloitte for Fimi, the confindustrial association of the record majors: in the first three months of 2021, for the first time since 1991, LPs are worth more than compact discs.

A segment growing by 121%

Overtaking was expected. Sometimes it was even communicated in spite of the real numbers. Specifically, vinyl made a contribution to our home recording market of 4.7 million in revenues compared to 4.4 million for the CD. Vinyl was up 121% over the same period in 2020, while CD was down 6%. In a market dominated by streaming, which now covers around 80% of Italian turnover, vinyl now accounts for 11% of all music sales in the country. Overall in the first quarter the Italian market grew by 18.8%, in which the evident affirmation of revenues from subscriptions to streaming services is still strong, up by 37%.


The rise has continued since 2010

The latest Global Report by Ifpi, the world federation of discography, hinted at this dynamic, although the two segments remained quite distant: the CD in 2020 was worth 24 million, for a drop of even 35% on the previous year, while vinyl stood at 15 million, showing growth of 2.5 percent. A continuous rise since 2010, both in Italy and globally. In Italy, in fact, between 2019 and 2020 the segment increased its turnover by 2.5 percent. A leap that, in comparison with 2010, becomes even 758 percent. Globally, 2020 closed with a value of vinyl equal to 889 million dollars. In 2010, LPs moved just $ 82 million. Italy is the eighth world “power” of the physical market, in a very particular ranking of hi-fi lovers dominated by Japanese diehards.

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Market niche frequented by big spenders

Of course, some might argue that physique and, even more so, vinyl represent a niche in a world market dominated by premium streaming. What is, in fact, 889 million dollars compared to 21.6 billion of the global turnover of the discography? And what are 15 million compared to the 254.8 that recorded music moves in Italy? Very true, for heaven’s sake: but it is a niche of big spenders that record companies have learned to pamper. Just see what ends up in the ranking of best-selling vinyls: 2020 in Italy had the high-weight copy of The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd’s longseller released in 1973. In second place, Famous by Sfera Ebbasta, a performance on which, according to Fimi, the 18App bonus also had a weight. Because the kids, with the 500 euros of cultural consumption insured for their 18th by the state, buy limited series. Just like their dads nostalgic for the golden age of the microgroove do.

Record store day: why buy reprints

The rebirth of the fetish

In short: if the music becomes liquid, the “fetish” becomes more solid than ever. But thirty years ago or so, had they not explained to us that the analogue support is less “faithful” and more usable than the digital one of the cd? If on the second assumption one can only agree, on the first one can instead start a philosophical dispute: a cd or a file uploaded in streaming will never contemplate the sound detail and “color” of an old long playing listened to in optimal conditions. And the unmistakable background rustle, if you hear it, is tolerable. After all, it creates atmosphere.

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