How Can CD's Be Losing Popularity While Vinyl is Resurging?

The Blind Eternities forum

Posted on March 3, 2018, 8:49 a.m. by DemonDragonJ

Supposedly, CD's are losing popularity as a medium for listening to music, but, inexplicably, vinyl records are supposedly resurging in popularity.

How can that be? CD's are superior to vinyl in almost every possible way: they are smaller in physical size, they can contain greater amounts of data, and they are digital, and thus not subject to any problems that can occur with analog media.

What does everyone else say about this? How can vinyl be resurging when CD's are losing popularity, and will CD's eventually resurge the way that vinyl currently is?

SteelSentry says... #2

My perspective might be colored by the fact that I do collect CDs, but I think they will come back the way vinyls have come back. However, one of the most important things about this comeback is that a lot of people collecting vinyls aren't listening to them. I know a few people that collect vinyl as a conversation piece, and don't have a player or don't actually use them. People are collecting vinyls because they can put them on a shelf and look at, rather than listen to.

I like CDs because I can listen to them in the car or a radio without needing to hook up my phone or computer, and I like knowing I have it right there instead of relying on a cloud, or worse, having 3 or 4 accounts on different music streaming services to keep track of to get my music. Plus, since I listen to a few local bands, it is an easy way to support them.

March 3, 2018 9:29 a.m.

LeaPlath says... #3

So you get a lot of purists who say vinyl sounds better. I don't listen to music enough on enough different platforms to know that but with CDs and digital formats there are changes with compression and stuff. Especially MP3s.

There is also the fact you can get some really really beautiful vinyls. They do a lot more with vinyl than CDs.

I think there is also something to be said for vinyl being harder to just "have on". When you put a vinyl on, you need to have actually gone, put the disk on, set it up and set it playing and listen through the album instead of just skipping to the one song you like.

That said, I need the convenience and portability more than I need the supposed better sound quality so I will stick to my MP3s.

March 3, 2018 10:44 a.m.

ork_mcgork says... #4

The downturn in CD's is due to the rise in smart devices. Why carry a stack of CD's when I can carry a library of music in my pocket? (Not that I do, but it's the same argument made for books vs. the Kindle).

As for Vinyl... I've heard Vinyl before, and I'm not convinced it's "better," - I think that what's happened is a bunch of hipsters needed to feel special and different and started acquiring Vinyl, which then started other people looking at it and going "hey, those covers are neat" or "I 'member Vinyl, you 'member?" It's just a fad. Now, will people say the same thing about CD's in the future? Hard to say. It's not like there's be a resurgence of cassette tapes or VHS.

March 3, 2018 11:14 a.m.

shadow63 says... #5

One word: hipsters

March 3, 2018 noon

cdkime says... #6

As a non-hipster who owns vinyl, here are my thoughts:

For older albums, there is a noticeable difference between the digital and vinyl formats. Wish You Were Here, for example, contains some of the the most complex, intricate works of instrumental music I have ever heard. There are layers upon layers of sound, working in perfect harmony. You get a taste of this with the digital, yes, but there is simply something more in the vinyl. Subtle sounds that are lost in compression, and elevate the music far beyond digital's capabilities. To provide a lyrical example, Ella Fitzgerald has one of the best voices ever recorded, but some of the richness and depth of her vocals is lost to compression.

That said, I am not sure I understand the purchase of modern albums on vinyl, or reprints of older albums. I own a couple modern albums (all Disney), which I obtained mostly for the fun of their art and because they are fun to put on while I do chores. They sound pretty much the same on digital as on vinyl. I suspect, but am not certain, that most modern vinyls are either recorded using or reprinted from a digital source, accounting for their comparative lack of depth.

Vinyl is also aesthetically pleasing, and record players themselves can be quite lovely. I have an old-fashioned wooden one that fits quite nicely with the rest of my Victorian decor.

Finally, I really like purchasing vinyl. A good record store trip feels a bit like treasure hunting--most places will have boxes upon boxes of unsorted dollar records that the owners do not feel like combing through. Every time I go, I usually find some wonderful music hidden away inside these boxes.

March 3, 2018 1:18 p.m.

Argy says... #7

Of course CDs are losing popularity.

Most people download music these days, or use Spotify.

Vinyl has resurfaced due to all the hipsters, and a mistaken belief that it sounds better.

I grew up with vinyl, and couldn't wait to get rid of it.

People claim it is "warmer".

In reality, if you enjoy crackles, and hisses in your music, vinyl is your friend.

Also, if you I enjoy filling your house up with cardboard, and not being able to carry your entire music collection around with you.

It's a cool novelty to put a record on when people come over, but it is not my preferred medium.

March 4, 2018 3:58 a.m.

LeaPlath says... #8

ork_mcgork You say that...but I love cassette tapes and VHS :P

The cassette tape whirr is a sort of comfort, and I love listening to narrative stuff on tape. I've got the BBC Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and a few other novels on cassette tape. And I love the magnus archive because they've got that effect because in the fiction they are recording it to tape due to computers not liking the weirdness.

And video artifacts from VHS are like unf <3 I loved Kung Fury and Galak-Z because they had all those effects put in digitally and it makes me nostalgic. Plus you can do a lot of cool things with them.

But I'm also the sort of person who misses the old internet dial up sound.

March 4, 2018 5:17 a.m.

cdkime says... #9


There is evidence to support the alleged mistaken belief that analog music sounds better, at least for older records. Several scientific studies performed contemporaneously with the advent of digital music show vinyl as capturing between 30-40% more variation in pitch than its digital counterpart. This results in a slightly more complex sound on the analog version.

That said, more recent studies have shown little difference between modern analog and modern digital music. This is largely attributed to new styles of music, new methods of recording, and new methods of compression. One study even suggested this was a result of digitilization of music itselfthat artists do not tend to utilise as wide a range of pitches, as they are used to recording in digital where such sounds would not be heard properly.

Regarding the hissing, popping, and other odd noises, I can see how someone would dislike such, and am careful to avoid saying vinyl objectively sounds better as a result. Like most things, its a matter of preference and how you weigh various factors.

March 4, 2018 11:01 a.m.

Braxlin says... #10

It's about collectors and how the market values these kinds of things. At least that's how it seems to me.

While vinyl does have a couple of upsides it is inferior to modern ways of keeping a musical library. The value is in the collector side of things. It's like buying physical comics and hoping someday the value of said comics increase to be sold at auctions or wherever. For the vinyls it's the same thing only slightly rarer and more valuable than the content on the vinyl itself.

Like let's hypothetically say someone gets a vinyl record of Amy Winehouse's first album the year she debuts. Then fast forward a few years to 2 years after her death. That $15 vinyl with a couple of songs is then worth $200-$1000 now due to her popularity re surging and fans genuinely wanting an unique way to preserve her memory. It's a secondary market thing that can help diversify your assets as well as show your fandom of a artist you really really enjoy. Kind of like collecting art, getting special editions of video games that come with limited art books or statues, or even cards in a broad sense for some people I think. Over time if the franchise, person, or IP stays relevant long enough those products will gain value. In the case of vinyl records more people can relate and get a sense of value from them because music is a much more universal thing overall and can be enjoyed by your vanilla fans as well as the hardcore or hipsters.

Now this doesn't speak for some people, but I think it's the reason overall, especially when you look at how CD's are more convinient over the vinyl records. And like I mentioned just easier for more people to access.

March 6, 2018 7:50 a.m.

cdkime says... #11


There is a slight problem with your theory--it does not hold water.

Starting with your example, Amy Winehouse's first vinyl release was in 2008--her debut album, Frank. I'm guessing the original retail was $20.00-$25.00--this is the going rate for most modern vinyl . The most expensive double Mint/Mint (both record and sleeve in mint condition) printing I can find is $148.28. That is not a bad rate of return for 10 years, but it's also a bit of a falsehood. The vast majority of 2008, M/M copies of this album are selling for $25.00-$30.00. That's not a particularly large return.

There are some notable exceptions which broke the rule. The original vinyl print of Stadium Arcadium sells for $125.00+ even for a VG+ (Very Good+) copy. But this album was also released before the vinyl resurgence as a fairly limited run. An M/M original printing of The Beatles (known also as the White Album) will set you back around $250.00 or more, but this is a particularly desirable collector's item.

Most desirable albums (Pink Floyd, Bowie, Led Zeppelin, etc.) however, sit around the $15.00-$30.00 range--in some cases, this does not even beat inflation, let alone returns had the money been invested more wisely. Many bands, which might have been popular in their era, have faded to obscurity, and Mint versions of their albums can be found in dollar bins across the country (This is how I've ended up with the wonderful Styx's discography).

Ultimately, vinyl is a terrible, terrible investment. The market is too unstable, and is currently saturated by the new trend in reprints. The overwhelming majority of albums do not beat inflation, let alone estimated rates of return on more sound investments. Finally, as others have mentioned, vinyl is a bit difficult to store and move, and incredibly easy to damage.

March 6, 2018 9:07 a.m.

Braxlin says... #12


That's an interesting bit of information. I only guessed at the financial value as the culprit, but I guess I was wrong. So I'm just going with my second thought I put up there, the art and fandom aspect of it all. But thanks for clearing that up

March 6, 2018 7:08 p.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #13

I have an .mp3 player, which I use very frequently, but I intend to collect CD's for as long as they are manufactured, for the same reasons that some people collect vinyl records: because they are nice conversation pieces, look impressive on shelves, and for the nostalgia/"hipster" value.

March 6, 2018 8:33 p.m.

Rhadamanthus says... #14

As far as I can tell it's just numbers flying around, and doesn't have much to do with the perceived and/or real quality differences between the two formats.

Vinyl has a very small market share of total music sales. It doesn't take much additional attention to cause a "resurgence" in a situation like that. Even after growing 20x over the past 15 years or so it still only represents around 5% of total sales. As others have mentioned above, I think the renewed interest is mostly for the collectible novelty. That's one of the main reasons I buy new vinyl. It's just neat to have (and yes I do have a player that I use to actually listen to it).

CDs have been in decline ever since the rise of digital file sharing, and even moreso with the rise of digital sales. It isn't a new trend. Files are cheaper and easier to manage than physical discs.

March 16, 2018 11:51 a.m.

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