Vinyl may outsell compact discs for the first time since 1986.

“There seems to be some talk that it’s surpassed CDs now, but I’d actually done that several years ago,” said Tim Smith, the owner of Papa Jazz Record Shoppe in Columbia. “It’s about a 2:1 ratio.”

A report from the Recording Industry Association of America suggests that the vinyl comeback may take over the CD industry soon. In 2002 and 2003, CDs were at the height of their popularity, making up 93% of total music sales in the US. Fifteen years later that number has dropped to just over 9%.

Meanwhile in 2018 digital sales currently make up 91% of the U.S. music industry, according to the same report.

The 2019 mid-year report shows that vinyl sales are up nearly 13% since 2018 and CD sales have barely increased 1%.

A lot of factors are contributing to the flip in trends.

“I think it’s due to a popularity [of what] used to be unpopular,” University of South Carolina freshman Sully Lant explained. “People want to be unique.”

But going against the grain is not the only reason for the flip.

“People just prefer the sound of vinyl,” Smith said. “There is just the listening experience. When you’re listening to a record, that’s all you’re doing. You’re sitting down and listening to a record. Whereas with a CD, you tend to drift away from it.”

UofSC sophomore, Sebastian Lee, who has about 50 records, agreed. “I like the crackling of old vinyl. It feels like it’s more personal because many people have had it before I did. I dated a girl who was into vinyl, and I thought that’s pretty cool . . . so I thought I should get into vinyl,” Lee noted.

While many thought CDs and digital tracks were a vast improvement to the music industry, the nostalgia of vinyl has captured the imagination of a new generation.

“I think there’s just something about the vibes that it has. It’s just a little more fun,” Lant added.

Smith finds that younger generations are gravitating towards vinyl, based on his in-store purchases. “Certainly, college kids are extremely tilted towards vinyl,” he said.


Some music lovers are gravitating toward vinyl records rather than CDs. 

Records are organized by artist in bins for sale at Papa Jazz Record Shoppe.

In 2002 and 2003 CDs made up 93% of total music sales in the U.S. Fifteen years later that number has dropped to just over 9%.

In a 2019 report, vinyl sales are up nearly 13% since 2018 and CD sales have hardly increased 1%.