For the first time in 35 years, vinyl records outsell CDs, and Craig Moore is over the moon about it
I’m jealous of Craig Moore.
You might be too if you spent a sizeable chunk of your youth hanging around record shops and turntables, as I did.
Moore, 76, is the longtime owner of Younger Than Yesterday, the record shop at 2615 N University St. Lately, he has been reliving his rock-and-roll youth through the eyes and ears of a species he had thought extinct:
Young people crazy for vinyl records.
More and more these days, they pop into the shop not just to buy new releases but to chat about music-industry trends, histories and anecdotes — just like youths did decades ago.
“This is,” he said with a huge grin, “one of the things I really love the most.”
It seemed like a lost love until the recent upsurge in vinyl sales, not just at his shop but nationally.
The Recording Industry Association tracks sales of new recordings and issued its annual report recently. In 2022, for the first time in 35 years, vinyl outsold CDs.
“Vinyl has created a whole new world of collecting among young people,” Moore said.
To be sure, Moore’s increased foot traffic includes plenty of music fans old enough to recall having to make the critical choice of whether to buy a new release on vinyl or 8-track. For them in 2023, new vinyl might be a reissue of old favorites such as Led Zeppelin IV or Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Nationally, new releases generally run $20 or more for a single album to as much as $50 for a double album. Even adjusted for inflation, those prices are higher — blame cost and demand — than in vinyl’s ‘70s heyday, when U.S. sales of albums were known to push past 350 million annually, compared to 41 million last year.
Still, 2022 marked the 17th consecutive year of increased vinyl sales. And those figures don’t include vintage vinyl, which at Moore’s shop still outsells new vinyl.
Of course, overall streaming is still king, making up 84% of U.S. sales of recorded music. But increasingly, music fans are drawn to vinyl, in part for its warmer, fuller sound. Many just crave music they can hold in their hands.
‘You’ve basically opened a piece of the artist’s life with a record’
“In here, you know, people come in and they’re touchy-feely again,” Moore said. “They want something substantial.”
Compared to downloads, vinyl also offers a bonus element: art on the cover and sleeves. Moore thinks art enhances the listener’s connection with the performer.
“You’ve basically opened a piece of the artist’s life with a record, with whatever creative input they’ve forced into this package,” Moore said.
Meanwhile, many young customers come in and know exactly what they want, often popular releases by the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and Kendrick Lamar. The contemporary queen, of course, is Taylor Swift, whose Midnights album topped the sales charts last year with just under a million copies.
How does that compare to vinyl’s heyday? Such comparisons are tricky because of multiple formats, then (vinyl, CD, cassettes, 8-tracks) and now (vinyl, CDs, streaming). But look back to 1981, the year before CDs started to trickle out. Across all formats, the top-selling album was by central Illinois favorite REO Speedwagon. Hi Infidelity sold 6 million copies in the U.S., besting Swift’s Midnights by more than six times over.
Often, young music fans are apt to let their eyes pore over many of the 25,000 vinyl albums, new and old, at Moore’s shop. And many times, they’ll buy something — new or old — just because they find the cover intriguing.
“That’s precious and priceless,” Moore said, smiling, “because I did that when I was 14, 15 years old.”
Moore thinks young people are starting to seek the kind of listening experience he enjoyed in his youth.
“Aqualung comes out: Jethro Tull, 1971,” Moore recalls dreamily. “I’d go down and buy the album. Friends of mine would come over. And we’d sit down and listen to side one. And then think, ‘Wow, that’s amazing’ — and discuss it. … Then turn the record over and listen to side two, and then discuss it.
“It was a thing. It was an experience to listen to an album.”
And that’s why I’m jealous of Moore. He is reveling in a revival of one of my life’s greatest cheap thrills: not just buying and listening to albums, but gathering with pals to debate their musical merits.
I’d like to write about this further, but I’ve got to split. It’s time to dust off the turntable, grab a comfy seat and spin some vinyl. You’re welcome to join me, but you’ll have to take your turn in flipping the albums over.