A recent article in Rolling Stone postulates that vinyl records are on track to outsell compact discs for the first time in over 30 years. They cite as evidence the Recording Industry Association of America’s 2019 mid-year report, which indicates CD sales have essentially flatlined over the last year (after decreasing significantly over the last decade), while vinyl sales have been steadily increasing.
While the focus of the article is making an argument for the resurgence of vinyl, the bigger eye-opener from the RIAA’s report is that, as of 2019, streaming (Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, YouTube, etc.) is BY FAR the largest consumer format in the music industry, accounting for a whopping 80% of revenue compared to all other sources. Even more interesting is that digital downloads (iTunes purchases) and physical sales (CD’s, vinyl, etc.) are both at 9% each of all music revenue. So yes, while vinyl is on the rise, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the amount of people who are choosing streaming as their preferred consumption format.
Even retailers are acknowledging this trend. If you go to Walmart or Target, you’ll be lucky to find a 4′ section of top-20 pop CD’s (while both retailers are carrying vinyl on their store shelves). Best Buy, who once had 1/4 of their store dedicated to CD sales, no longer carries CD’s of any kind in their store. Dedicated music stores are also disappearing across the country as shopping malls shut down (although vinyl record stores are growing). Car manufacturers have stopped including CD players in their stereo systems, replacing them with USB ports and Bluetooth capabilities.
It’s even harder to find Christian music CD’s locally. Family Christian Store, once the largest Christian retailer in the country, went out of business several years ago, and Lifeway ceased operations of their retail stores last year. That leaves pretty much mom-and-pop enterprises, which are few and far-between (and, depending on the location, may not even have legitimate releases).
To say that CD’s in general are difficult to obtain is an understatement. Southern gospel music CD’s in particular are virtually impossible to obtain. Sure, you can always order direct from an artist, but for folks who prefer to browse a vast selection, their options are so incredibly limited that one has to wonder why artists are continuing to push what essentially has become an obsolete format.
Then again, this IS southern gospel we’re talking about. The majority of SG audiences (let’s be honest) are not up to date on the latest tech trends, nor do they wish to be. They are traditionally an older crowd, which means that they probably are unwilling to abandon what they are happy and/or comfortable with (which is part of the reason why cassettes remained in SG long after they were viable in the general market). Eventually, the SG audience will be majority-streaming, but for now, I don’t see that being the case.
Unfortunately, I am not aware of sales figures dedicated to southern gospel music to indicate just how much of a market share streaming has in this particular genre vs the music industry as a whole. I mean, it’s not entirely fair to compare fans of Taylor Swift (who pride themselves on repeatedly streaming songs to run up revenue) to fans of Greater Vision, most of whom (again, being honest here) probably don’t have a Spotify subscription (if they are even familiar with what it is).