Streaming The Crates
Vinyl is back, but is digital dead? The general narrative of the music industry has been one of forward progress. Vinyl was replaced by tapes. Tapes were replaced by CDs, and CDs were replaced by MP3s. MP3 was replaced by digital streaming. Now it's been reported that Vinyl sales are on the rise, while digital is declining.
Industry insiders are trying to say that it's digital's lack of gatekeepers that have driven people back to physical music, but that is complete bullshit. Streaming is what's to blame here, which is why you saw a 10% drop in the album sales, and a 12% drop in the song sales. The people who were just buying pop singles, moved on to streaming for their fix.
As for vinyl, there is a bit of a hipster and collector bubble. That doesn't explain everything. As physical mediums go, Vinyl is the ideal physical medium for music. The packaging is cooler, and they look better on a shelf. Most of the time it comes with a digital copy. (Though it's much better to rip them directly to FLAC or ALAC for better sound.)
What is missing from the debate is that does streaming music enable vinyl sales? For me it does. I can amass playlist after playlist of songs I hear on podcasts, set aside recommendations from friends, and every other possible source of music in my life. Then I can hear them, and end up ordering the record later. Streaming means I don't have to rely on a 30 second sample, I can listen to the whole album. It doesn't cost 10 bucks to hear an album anymore, so I'm more apt to listen to something. I don't buy every album I listen, but I buy a lot. I imagine that removing that ten buck barrier to listen to MP3 versions of albums drives people to buy physical, because you have more to show for it. Your digital access to the music is already sated by the streaming service.
Digital is still a vital medium for smaller bands, both downloads and streaming. Band Camp is an excellent model that helps smaller bands reach audiences, and share music. Bands can also sell physical releases through the site, letting the physical goods act as an additional level of support.
The streaming services let me explore music, find new bands, and check things out. I'm buying more music from more bands because of streaming. This very well could be my own biases turning correlation into causation, but I'm sticking with my theory.