Are DJ Turntables Outselling CDJs?

Vinyl sales are up. They’re one of the few forms of physical media that’s seen gains in the last five years. But is it just a fad in the music consumer market, or is it also the case in the DJ industry? We take a closer look at a fascinating trend in DJ technology in today’s article.

2016 and Turntables vs CDJs

Basic chart comparing the last few months of DJ gear sales. (Axes are intentionally unlabeled for legal reasons, but the relative levels are accurate)
Basic chart comparing the last few months of turntable and CDJ/media player sales. (Axes are intentionally unlabeled for legal reasons, but the relative levels are correct)

In May of 2016, turntables captured about 14% of the US market’s unit share for DJ technology. Comparatively, CDJs only captured 6.3% of the units sold. (DJ controllers were far and away the winner with 42%). While we’re not allowed to share too many specifics from sales data (via MI Salestrak), what we can say is that this is only a continuation of a recent trend over the last few months.

Turntables have eclipsed the CDJ (and other media players) in unit sales for three months in a row, and it seems like this might be a trend that will continue. But what are the reasons for this growth, and how does it actually compare to the rest of the market? Read on.

Reason 1: Consumer/DJ Crossover use

The full gamut of DJ turntables are included in these types of industry sales reports. Because of the low-cost of some OEM Technics-style turntables like those made by Audio Technica, it’s very possible that some of these sales are going to consumers who might never DJ with their turntables.

Why would record player sales pick up? As noted at the beginning of this article, vinyl sales overall have seen major gains compared to every other form of music that isn’t digital radio or streaming:

From "In Shift to Streaming, Music Business Has Lost Billions" in the NY Times
From “In Shift to Streaming, Music Business Has Lost Billions” in the NY Times

But just because a turntable is low-cost doesn’t mean that it won’t be used by a DJ. Have you heard of portablism yet?

Reason 2: Rise Of Portablism

Image from this video of portablist DJ Mugzee practicing on a rooftop in Berlin
Image from this video of portablist DJ Mugzee practicing on a rooftop in Berlin

One of the other most popular turntables sold on the market right now is Numark’s PT01, a belt-driven, battery-operated turntable. The PT01 runs just $99 – and it’s one of the primary weapons of choice for the so-called portabalist movement. This is a growing group of turntablists who have descided to take their skills into the wild, allowing them to perform wherever they want with a simple standalone crossfader, a phone/MP3 player for the backing track, and a scratch record:

Still No Match For Controllers….For Now?

controllers-are-king

Even though turntables are beating out CDJs consistently for the last few months, they’re nowhere close to touching the popularity of digital DJ controllers. Controllers are selling over 36 times more units – and completely dominating the market.

Why? Here’s some basic speculation on the continued popularity of DJ controller:

  • DJs don’t need to buy “anything else” when they buy a DJ controller. Software is often included, and music is already being collected digitally. DJing with turntables requires a mixer and a record collection (or at least a DVS setup).
  • The wave of “new DJs” is still strong. “Being a DJ” is still high on the aspirations of many music fans, and many of them are looking for a simple solution to learn quickly. Vinyl
  • You can’t just buy one turntable to DJ with. The price of two is often well past the price of a nice DJ controller.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at May 30.16.10 PM

That being said, more and more DJs seem to want to switch to standalone DJ gear (the above graph is from an article we wrote about DJs moving in that direction). Maybe the rise of DJ turntable sales is just part of the story?

Are you a DJ who has bought/considered buying turntables recently? Share your story in the comments. 

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