As per the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) annual revenue report, CD sales in North America increased for the first time in over two decades in 2021. According to the report, CD sales grew from 31.6 million to 46.6 million within the same time period, marking the first gain since 2004.
Furthermore, CD sales were far below their peak in 2000, when total revenue in the United States was $13.2 billion and nearly one billion CDs were dispatched. However, the significant growth reflects a societal shift in the reemergence of physical music in an industry driven by broadcasting. While streaming services continue to be the most popular way to listen to music, CD-friendly product launches from legendary artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, and ABBA helped boost UK sales in 2021, according to the BPI, who added that the latest stats indicated “a steering committee of baby-boomer and relatively new fans who remain faithful to the audio format.”
As a result, the CD remains generally in the minority, but there has been a noticeable increase in sales. It should be noted that devotees of the physical format continue to be many. The link between a Spotify playlist and a tangible item is not quite the same. Adele’s song, “30,” saw physical format sales account for 80% of its overall chart purchases in December. And CDs were not the only tangible music medium that enjoyed a sales increase in 2021. According to the BPI, 2021 saw the biggest vinyl sales in three decades, demonstrating fans’ enthusiasm for vinyl.
Sony and Phillips released the very first CDs, or Compact Discs, in 1982, with the technique effectively becoming such a universalizing of music throughout the 1980s and 1990s. “Compact disc has been declining in popularity for 17 years now since fans first started converting to downloads in the Noughties and have had access to content via streaming platforms for almost 10 years,” the BPI noted in a release. Cassette purchases were also up, increasing by 19% to 185,000 copies sold. The findings, according to Drew Hill, MD of Proper Music Distribution, are “evidence that in this great generation of variety, music enthusiasts actually value an album they can grasp.”