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.”
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.”
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.
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.