Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, Vinyl and Streaming Thrived During 2020’s First Half

July 09

  According to the midyear Nielsen Music/MRC Data report, the U.S. music industry posted a 9.4% increase with 361.2 million album audio consumption units (330.3 million by half time 2019), despite having to overcome a bigger-than-expected drop in physical music formats due to the COVID-19 economic downturn.

Within that, audio on-demand streaming continues to enjoy robust growth due to building at a 16.2% pace for the first half of the year to 419.82 billion streams. That's up from the prior year's six month total of 361.14 billion.

Albums fell 18.1% to 45.5 million copies from the prior year’s midyear total of 55.6 million copies. Within that, the digital albums decline slowed but CD decreases accelerated, both probably due to the pandemic shutdown. With many record stores shuttered for a couple of months due to local government mandates across the country, CD sales fell a whopping 30.2% to 18.5 million copies from the 26.53 million copies sold in the prior year. Meanwhile, digital album downloads declined 14.3% to 17.65 million from the 20.6 million album downloads in the first six months of 2019.

Thus, with many indie and big chain stores closed — and with consumers sheltering at home — CD sales were smothered even as plenty of shoppers turned to Amazon and other online and mail-order sellers for their fixes. As a result, that retail sector’s album sales market share grew nearly five percentage points to 30.75%. But digital album downloads market share also enjoyed a resuscitation in the first half, with that sector’s share now nearly 39%, up more than a percentage point. The other store sectors tallied market shares of 14.91% for mass merchants; 12.54% for indie stores; 2.64% for chains; and non-traditional retail outlets at 0.26%.

The vinyl format continues its amazing growth story, proving to be the saving grace for the physical format, during the economic downturn causing pandemic. Overall, vinyl album sales enjoyed 11.2% growth to 9.2 million units, up almost 1 million copies from the 8.3 million copies scanned during the first half of 2019, thanks to Walmart coming to the party this year with a rollout of 12-inch platters added to its in-store music presentation.