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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vinyl record sales are rising — and it's younger music enthusiasts who are driving the trend.

The big picture: Even though streaming services dominate music consumption, vinyl hasn't gone the way of CDs.

Illuminating stat: In 2020, U.S. vinyl sales topped CD sales for the first time since 1986, per the Recording Industry Association of America.

  • This year, sales growth keeps exploding. Vinyl sales are up 108% in the first six months of 2021, compared with the same period in 2020, CNBC reports.
  • This sales boom made record stores rare winners in the pandemic-era retail apocalypse — as many music lovers had more time to listen to albums at home and decided to expand their record collections.

The reason is simple, Billy Fields, the resident vinyl expert at Warner Music Group, told CNBC: "It's eternally cool."

The big picture: Streaming is still king, accounting for 80% of all music revenue in 2019. But vinyl isn't disappearing because it offers an experience that hitting play on your phone does not.

  • "I’m using streaming basically 24/7, but having records has been a way of making my favorite music tactile," says Gigi Lone, an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. "You can't really collect something on Spotify. This is just owning something that is dear to you."
  • "There's definitely a hipness to it," says Chip Heuisler, who owns Tunes, a record store in Hoboken, New Jersey. "There is something about the tangible experience of taking the record out of its sleeve and putting it on the turntable. And, with older records, sometimes hearing a bit of that pop and crackle adds to the experience."

For many, vinyl records have become like prints and paintings — art to display in the home. "The album art, the aesthetics of the record itself, the grooves of the vinyl, is something that I’m attracted to," Lone says. "And I love seeing it when people have it up on their walls. It's part of the culture."

What to watch: The popularity of vinyl is causing ripples in the music industry, as the skyrocketing demand is roiling its supply chain.

Big box stores like Walmart, Amazon and Target are seeing dollar signs and stepping into vinyl sales. They now account for 13% of all sales, up from 4% in 2018, per Billboard. But that also means they're placing orders far larger than independent record stores — and the vinyl manufacturers are struggling to fill them.

As a result, consumers are dealing with delays on orders, and even the world's biggest artists are waiting months for their vinyls to hit the shelves.

  • For example, Taylor Swift announced the re-release of her album "Red" several months in advance to ensure the vinyl would be available at the release.
  • Although sometimes the vinyl delays can create fresh hype for artists. Swift's recent album, "Evermore," got a late bump back to No. 1 when its vinyl was released.

The bottom line: Even as tech changes the way we entertain ourselves — and makes certain forms of media obsolete — vinyl has the powerful asset of coolness to keep it alive.

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Retail sales increase despite low expectations from Delta

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumers defied expectations and shopped at an increasing rate amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Why it matters: Several measures of consumer confidence fell sharply in August, suggesting consumer spending could fall during the month. In fact, concerns about the Delta variant's impact on the economy had prominent Wall Street economists cutting their expectations for Q3 GDP growth.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (L) and Sen. Joe Manchin (R) at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.