The Change in Tempo

Gain some insight into the journey of audio formats from the 1980's to today. Hover over each image to listen to the sounds of each decade and click to learn more about the most successful albums!

Record Image

Vinyl Records

The vinyl record evolved from the phonograph cylinder around the 1920’s and functions when a needle-like stylus catches the grooves radiating from the center of the disc. The record format thrived up until the 90’s when audio-tapes and compact discs began to phase out the dated technology, however they are still manufactured today for collectors and niche music enthusiasts. The vinyl record served to bring life to the music of artists such as the Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Eagles, and many more. According to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), the album with the most units sold of a platinum or gold record during the vinyl format’s reign was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Tape Image

Cassette Tapes

Released by Phillips in 1962, the cassette tape would later replace the vinyl record as the popular form of music consumption towards the late 80’s and leading into the 90’s. The cassette was easier to use and allowed for portable listening with technological advancements such as the Sony Walkman and automobile cassette players that allowed listeners to enjoy their music without the need for a bulky turntable. The cassette tape remained dominant during the 90’s, according to the RIAA, and the artist whose album had the most units sold of a platinum or gold record during this time was Garth Brooks with his album “Double Live.”

CD Image

Compact Discs

Thanks to the work of Phillips and Sony engineers, a new audio format soon took over the recording industry. Developed in 1982, the compact disc (CD), didn’t achieve massive commercial success until the early 2000s. CDs were more lightweight than the former music storage formats and cars and portable audio players soon adapted to be compatible with the new technology. With vinyl records virtually obsolete compared to earlier years, and cassette sales on the decline, the CD reigned supreme. Artists such as Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and Mariah Cary thrived during this time with NSYNC’s album “No Strings Attached” accumulating the most units sold of a platinum or gold record from 2000-2010.

Soundwave Image

Digital Downloads and Streaming

The CD would soon meet its maker when the introduction of online downloads make physical audio formats a thing of the past. With MP3 technology developed in the mid-90s, the Internet later allowed this digital format to be transferred to personal hard drives for convenient listening. With this technology came the threat of music piracy, illegal downloads, and the luxury of downloading or streaming single songs rather than entire albums. Platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora have made it exponentially easier for listeners to enjoy artists such as Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and the Weeknd although album sales are declining. Singer/songwriter Adele held the most units sold of a platinum or gold record from 2000-today, despite the disadvantage artists have faced due to digital audio formats.

Thriller

Thriller album cover

Thriller, released in November of 1982 by Epic Records, reigns as the best-selling album of all time. As Jackson’s sixth studio album, It has been awarded triple diamond status, sold 32 million units, won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, one of which was Album of the Year. The Recording Industry Association of America certified “Thriller” Gold and Platinum on December 4, 1989. Of the nine songs on the album, seven singles were released and each of them reached the top 10 on the Billboard 100 chart. Below you can view the names of each track on the album.

Facts and figures from this Wikipedia page.

Double Live

Double Live album cover

Double Live, released in November of 1998, is a two-disc compilation of Garth Brooks’ live songs recorded during his 1996-1998 world tour. Within its first week, it sold 1,085,000 copies and quickly surpassed the record previously held by Pearl Jam’s Vs. It is Brooks’ only live album and it became the best one in United States history. According to the RIAA, it is certified platinum with sold 21 million units sold and the seventh-most shipped album in the U.S. Below you can view the names of each track on the album.

Facts and figures from this Wikipedia page.

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached album cover

No Strings Attached, released in March of 2000 by Jive Records, is N’Sync’s second studio album and stood as an effort to distinguish the band from other groups signed with the same label (the Backstreet Boys). The name of the album takes this independence a step further by implying they aren’t puppets of the industry, and have “no strings attached” to the dictations of management. The album resonated with its listeners, selling 11 million units and a debut in the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 2.4 million copies. Below you can view the names of each track on the album.

Facts and figures from this Wikipedia page.

21

21 album cover

21, released in 2011, topped the charts in more than 30 countries and became the world's best-selling album of the year for 2011 and 2012. In the United States, the album held the top position for 24 weeks, longer than any other album since 1985 and the longest by a female solo artist in Billboard 200 history. Five singles were released to promote the album, with "Rolling in the Deep," "Someone like You" and "Set Fire to the Rain" becoming international number-one songs, while "Rumour Has It" charted in the top 20 across Europe and North America. Globally, 21 was the biggest selling musical release for both 2011 and 2012, and helped revitalise lagging sales of the UK and US music industry. Below you can view the names of each track on the album.

Facts and figures from this Wikipedia page.