Vinyl records sales hit $1 billion in 2021, 40-year high

STURGEON BAY Wis. — There was a time where Paul Exworthy had written off his record collection.

He wasn’t alone.

What You Need To Know

  • Record sales have been increasing for the past 15 years
  • Sales of LPs hit $1 billion in 2021, the first time since 1986
  • The Recording Industry Association of America said overall music sales in 2021 were $15 billion

“In 1995, all my records were probably in a basement and I was moving them house to house along with my turntables and old stereo equipment and I listened to CDs,” he said. “And I still love CDs.”

Exworthy is general manager at Bay Vinyl Records in Sturgeon Bay where he’s immersed in discussions about music and LPs all day.

It’s where he wants to be.

“Ten years ago my step-daughter brought me to a used record store in Green Bay on Record Store Day and I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.

Both the store and the industry have seen an influx of new business in recent years.

Older music lovers are coming back to records while a new generation of buyers are joining the record world. Logan Smith is part of that new generation.

He recently got his first record player and is discovering a world of music that at one time had gone the way of the eight-track tape.

“I grew up with it. My parents had record players and stuff like that,” Smith said. “I’ve always heard people say that with digital music you lose a lot of sound and tone and warmth, and I didn’t realize believe it until I got my own record player.”

The Recording Industry Association of America’s annual report for 2021 said records sales revenues hit one billion dollars for the first time since 1986.

Smith isn’t surprised.

“Bands and record labels are definitely starting to see people shift like that,” he said. “You know how people say the past always comes back.”

Exworthy consistently sees new customers in the store looking for both used and new LPs.

“I don’t see it slowing down especially since they are making, like this one, new ones,” he said while cleaning a newer release. “And they’re getting fancier. They’re making them thicker. Getting all the (vinyl) colors.”