How record stores are faring in the digital age of music

When was the last time you ventured into a record store? The answer to this could go two different ways:

You’ve been to one, or possibly a few, because you like the experience of seeing and holding physical forms of music such as CDs and vinyls.


You’ve never been to one because you know you can get digital formats of the music you love through downloads and streaming services.

Photo by Spotify Musique mp3 (Flickr/ Creative Commons)

We’ve reached a point in music sales history where digital formats have overtaken the physical formats. Digital now makes up 45 percent of global music revenues while physical makes up 39 percent. 

The 2016 Nielson Year-End Music report states that 80 percent of music listeners used online streaming service in the past 12 months and that live concerts make up 36 percent of music spending with music festivals adding another 8 percent.

How does this shift affect the EDM industry?

Electronic music (placed fifth in the top 11 genre chart) has the largest on-demand audio streaming percentage with 57 percent. It only has about seven percent of physical albums.

Comparatively, rock music (the top spot on the top music genre list) holds a smaller on-demand audio streaming percentage with 26 percent and a 38 percent in the physical album category.

Going back to the above live concert/ festival statistics, this is where a lot of electronic music finds its niche.

Electronic music shows and festivals offer a live experience beyond what many other genres can. With the crazy sound and stage productions and the communal environment it provides, experiencing this music live has a large impact on many people.

When it comes to physical format sales though, the popularity is much less.

The electronic music section in Boo Boo Records, a record store in Downtown San Luis Obispo, is meager and represents a very small portion of the amount available to most EDM lovers online.

The rest of the store offers a wide variety of genres and formats, as well as non-music merchandise such as books, gifts and apparel.

How has the shift affected record stores?

Photo by Unsplash (Pixabay/ Public Domain)

“The movement into the digital age of music formats has definitely affected the store’s sales in physical music formats,” according to Mike White, the owner of Boo Boo Records.

“There has been a complete and utter Renaissance of vinyl sales that has allowed it to keep pace with the decline in CD sales.” — Mike White

According to White, vinyl offers a warmer, richer sound and carries a nostalgic component that many people enjoy.

“While still a very small percentage of the market, vinyl has proven successful in some high streaming markets, reflecting some consumer’s appetite for high quality sound, artwork and a tangible product they can own and collect,” states IFPI Global Music Report.

In order to maintain business in store, resources had to be directed more towards what is selling such as vinyl and other non-music merchandise. The non-music merchandise offered include equipment, such as turntables, books, girls, baby clothes, t-shirts, posters, stickers and magnets.

By including all this, the store really pulls in all demographics, said White. It offers something for everyone.

So if you’ve never ventured into a records store, I suggest you take the time to explore one. You never know what you might find.

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