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CDs Drive Another Nail in LPs’ Coffin

January 25, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Vinyl long-playing records, whose popularity has been under steady attack from cassettes for more than a decade, took another step towards extinction last year as they were outsold for the first time by compact discs, according to recording industry figures released Wednesday.

Manufacturer shipments of CDs soared 64 percent, to 70.4 million units, in the first six months of 1988, up from 43 million units in the first half of 1987. Meantime, LP deliveries declined 22.4 percent to 43.5 million units from 56 million in 1987′s first six months, the Recording Industry Association of America said.

Music lovers spent $1 billion for CDs in the first six months of 1988, a nearly 50 percent gain in dollar sales over the same period in 1987. When CDs were introduced in 1983, they accounted for just $17.2 million in sales, the RIAA said.

The figures, which take into account unsold LPs and CDs returned to manufacturers, show that cassette shipments improved 11 percent to 208.1 million units in the January to June period last year, compared with 188 million in the first half of 1987.

For all of 1987, CD deliveries rose a whopping 93 percent over 1986 to 102.1 million units, and cassettes improved 19 percent to 410 million units. LPs, meanwhile, declined 15 percent to 107 million units in 1987.

Cassette sales represented 59 percent of the $5.57 billion the U.S. record- buying public spent on CDs, LPs, cassettes and singles in all of 1987. Compact discs had a 20 percent share of the market for the year, while LPs had 18 percent. As recently as 1985, LPs had held 34 percent of the market, compared with just 3 percent for CDs and 59 percent for cassettes.

The generally more expensive CDs surpassed LPs in dollar sales for the first time in 1987. CD sales totaled $1.59 billion, up 71.3 percent over 1986, while LPs suffered a 19 percent drop in sales to $793.1 million.

However, LPs in 1987 still held the edge in total units shipped: 107 million to 102.1 million, the RIAA said.

″Comparisons of research for 1985 through 1987 indicates that cassettes and compact discs continue to be the consumers’ favorites,″ the RIAA said. ″These configurations have shown consistent growth, while in the last three years sales of vinyl configurations have declined. 1987 CD sales have surpassed LPs for the first time.″

The demise of the vinyl LP has been predicted for some time. But Patricia Heimers, an RIAA spokeswomen, said it was premature to say the long-play album was going the way of the 78 rpm record and eight-track cassettes.

″I think that the LP will be around for a good long while,″ she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. ″We’ve seen over the past few years a shifting in the configuration of choice.″

″There are an awful lot of LP lovers out there. ... Each configuration serves different needs for different consumers,″ Heimers said.

Just 15 million cassettes were delivered in 1973, compared with 280 million LPs in that year. LP deliveries peaked at 344 million units in 1977, and have declined steadily since, as cassettes began to predominate. Cassette deliveries and sales surpassed LPs for the first time in 1983.

In 1987 overall, sales of recorded music increased 19.7 percent to $5.57 billion, compared with $4.65 billion in 1986. Total units shipped increased 14.3 percent to 706.8 million from 618.3 million in 1986, the RIAA said.

Rock music continued to be the most popular music, holding a 47 percent share of dollars spent. The other categories and their market shares were: pop, 13 percent; black-urban, 12 percent; country, 10 percent; classical, 5 percent; jazz, 4 percent; gospel, 3 percent; and other, 7 percent.

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