Music can have a time machine effect. That Taking Back Sunday song might instantly hurtle you back to your awkward emo phase (or at least you thought that counted as emo back then), or maybe the crackle of vinyl evokes the stale pizza scent of your college dorm room. To celebrate CNN’s Soundtracks: Songs That Defined History, premiering Thursday, April 20 at 10 p.m., we embraced these music-induced warm-and-fuzzy feelings. And because we’re not just nostalgic for music, we’re nostalgic for the ways we listened to it, click through the different audio mediums – from vinyl to streaming – and revel in the eras we associate them with.
Select a Medium
Vinyl: There and Back Again
Vinyl had quite the heyday. In 1948, Columbia came out with the 12-inch long-playing (LP) 33 1/3 -rpm micro-groove vinyl record. The following year, RCA introduced the seven-inch 45-rpm vinyl “single” (although the earliest iterations could hold up to 8 minutes of music). Singles peaked in 1973 and LPs did so in 1978, although vinyl didn’t lose its top spot to cassette tapes until 1983.
And, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that vinyl’s back. In fact, it’s been rising year-over-year for over a decade – 2016 saw over 13 million units sold, accounting for 11% of physical album sales.
The Age of the Cassette Tape: The ‘80s
First introduced in 1963, cassette tapes eventually overtook vinyl in 1983, thanks in part to portability (Sony’s introduction of the Walkman in 1979 helped with that). In 1983, at the height of pop, Michael Jackson reigned supreme, Madonna released her self-titled debut album, and Culture Club – dubbed Best New Artist – released “Karma Chameleon.” Today, tapes may not be experiencing the massive resurgence that vinyl is, but the format is still having a moment. In 2015, National Audio Company, one of the largest tape manufacturers, turned $5 million in cassette sales, a 31% increase from 2014 (which at that point, had been its best year ever).
CDs First Take the Reins in the ‘90s
The first commercial CD player was released in 1982, and the 1985 release of Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms was telling of the format’s bright future: The album became the first to sell more copies on CD than vinyl, surpassing the million mark. In 1988, CD sales officially surpassed vinyl sales, and in 1991, they overtook cassettes. CD sales would peak in 2000 (a prime year for boy bands), and begin a slow descent from there.
MP3s Rise in the Aughts
In 2000, CD sales hit an all time peak, and at the same time, MP3 sales begin to rise. In 2001 the iPod and iTunes came onto the scene, and in 2003, the iTunes store was born (Apple’s famous silhouette campaign launched the same year). The music industry landscape quickly became all about the single track – in its first week of existence, users downloaded over a million songs from the iTunes store. By 2007, digital singles had overtaken CDs by roughly 819 million sold to 500 million.
Stream on: The 2010s
2013 marked another shift in the industry: For the first time since the launch of the iTunes store, Apple (at the time, responsible for 63% of all digital music sales) saw a decline in sales for single tracks and albums. Industry execs chalked it up to the advent of streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. In 2015, streaming accounted for just under half of all digital music revenue globally, which, combined with downloads, surpassed physical formats for the first time ever. Streaming continues to rise: In 2016, streaming in the U.S. jumped by 76% (across platforms, 431 billion songs were streamed), taking a larger piece of the revenue pie than digital.
This is paid content produced for an advertiser by New York Brand Studio. The editorial staff of Vulture did not play a role in its creation.