PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Nope, it's not a relic of old Pearl Jam songs, Gaslight Anthem film projects or even a byproduct of Foo Fighters audiophile experiments. It's the fastest-growing music format in the country.
It's no fluke, either. Since 2009, sales of vinyl records have grown by nearly 2.1 million albums and by nearly 15% each year. During that same time, total album sales have dropped from 376 million, while combined physical album sales have fallen below 200 million for the first time ever. Even digital album sales, hailed as music's savior, dropped slightly last year as the demand for digital tracks plunged by 6%.
That's not enough to undo all the damage vinyl and its purveyors have suffered throughout the years. Record stores saw their revenue tumble by 76% since 2000 to $2 billion, according to market research firm IBISWorld. That group estimates that record stores will lose another 40% of sales by 2016. But despite being derided as cumbersome and outdated, vinyl is the only form of non-streaming music that more people actually want to own.
Those recent sales spikes elevated vinyl from a thrift-store find to an honored portion of music collections throughout the U.S. You may buy a $1.99 digital single of the moment or download the full $8 to $10 album if you're really into it, but record buyers save that honor for their most prized albums. Otherwise, they're content to let it pop up on the streaming music service they're paying a monthly fee for. That's prompted labels such as Warner and Sony Music to crank up the vinyl works again and, on occasion, thrown in MP3 versions for free if people spend on shiny new 180-gram vinyl. Warner is once again paying for its spot as lead sponsor for Record Store Day this Saturday at 700 participating independent record stores across the country and more than 1,600 shops around the world.
So where should you be if you want to get your hands on a Sam Cooke reissue, a Dinosaur Jr./The Cure 7-inch version of No Fun or any of the other special-edition releases headed to record stores that day? We offered some suggestions last year, but here's a new slate of cities still in love with vinyl: