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It’s personal: the rise of music streaming and re-emergence of vinyl

One of the biggest audio developments over the last few decades has undoubtedly been the seismic shift from physical to digital. It began in the 1980s, when the CD slowly began to take up valuable real estate on store shelves. By the 90s, CDs were the standard format, but their reign wouldn’t last forever. At the turn of the century, CD sales peaked, and the format began its gradual descension as digital downloads rose in prominence. Today, streaming is the dominant method of audio consumption.   

Almost ten years ago, Futuresource predicted just how pervasive streaming would become. In 2014, Futuresource reported that globally streaming represented just 17% of consumer spend. In 2022, this figure reached 83%. At Audio Collaborative 2023, Futuresource Consulting’s flagship event, our team of analysts will continue to evaluate the evolution of audio consumption – spotlighting the trends and opportunities that will emerge.  

Shifting consumer behaviours 

Futuresource has been in the privileged position to track and commentate on the developments that have shaped audio. As streaming took hold, we watched the industry take another step towards digitalisation, and the way consumers engaged with audio changed once more. Subscription-based streaming services are now the go-to listening format, making the historic catalogue of music widely available. It's their ease of use and accessibility that will continue to draw in consumers in the coming years.  

But alongside the rise of streaming, another format made a surprising re-emergence: vinyl. In 2022, vinyl sales outstripped CDs for the first time since the 1980s, and Futuresource expects consumer spend to continue to grow at a CAGR of 9.0% from 2023-2027. Vinyl’s unexpected revival demonstrates that nothing is off the table for the industry – but what’s driving the resurgence? 

Consumers want more than just music 

There are a few contributing factors. The first being the collectability of vinyl, the second being the appeal of the artwork, and the third being the difference in sound. Futuresource’s Audio Tech Lifestyles survey found that, of those surveyed, less than half listen to all the vinyl's they purchase. Interestingly, 14% don’t even own a turntable, and 5% buy vinyl purely as a collectable.  

In terms of the sound factor, while vinyl and turntables don’t necessarily produce superior audio quality, they undeniably create a different feel. The snap, crackle and pops of vinyl can add to the auditory experience, creating an illusion of a bygone time. Indeed, vinyl is a vivid reminder of the past, as a listener must physically engage with a record. Given that music is more widely available now than ever before, vinyl represents a way for consumers to demonstrate a special interest. Vinyl symbolises a connection to history and culture, it suggests thought and care. In many ways, it feels much more personal and deliberate than streaming a song online. And the nostalgia trend isn’t just influencing music but also the broader entertainment industry.  

Consumers are searching for a deeper connection to music. But how can streaming platforms provide this? Personalisation is one way that platform providers are tapping into the vinyl effect. While streaming cannot replicate the experience of vinyl, platforms can offer consumers greater personalisation that makes the listening experience reflect the personality, mood and emotions of the user. 

Spotify Wrapped has capitalised on this with huge success. The feature packages up Spotify users’ top listening habits into fun and shareable graphics. Users have the chance to show off their music personality to their friends, much the same way someone might show off their record collection. 

As AI continues to evolve, the opportunities for personalisation across audio will increase. Algorithms will become more refined, and able to better anticipate an individual’s tastes. Listening experiences will become more tailored and will create a more rewarding experience. 

At Audio Collaborative 2023, we’ll be uniting industry authorities to dive into the growing trend of vinyl, as well as exploring how personalisation can elevate audio. Discover more about the event and secure your seats here. 

Date Published:

Olivia Lowden

About the author

Olivia Lowden

Olivia Lowden is responsible for the long-form content, press, and partnerships at Futuresource. Prior to her career at Futuresource, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, demonstrative of her lifelong love of words.

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