CD sales in the United States for 2021 increased for the first time in nearly two decades, according to data published by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Shipments increased from $ 31.6 million in 2020 to $ 46.6 million in 2021, and revenue from the format increased from $ 483.2 million to $ 584.2 million. RIAA figures confirm a similar report from MRC Data released earlier this year.
Although CD sales are still far from their peak in 2000 – when nearly a billion CD albums were released in the US – Axios notes that the increase is another key element in the resurgence of physical music. Vinyl sales have been steadily rising for more than a decade and a half now, reaching 39.7 million units in the United States by 2021, bringing in $ 1 billion in revenue.
The combination means that physical media as a whole saw its first increase in sales since 1996, but streaming is still king. Paid subscriptions accounted for 57.2 percent of revenue measured by the RIAA in 2021 to $ 8.6 billion, while ad-supported streams brought in $ 1.8 billion. Meanwhile, sales of CD and vinyl albums together accounted for less than 11 percent of sales.
Personally, I would be very interested to see if this resurgence of CDs specifically continues as the world emerges after two years of pandemic shutdown. CDs are great for listening to music at home, but I have not seen anyone carry around a cumbersome portable CD player for years. And while vinyl offers a distinct sound compared to digital music, CDs contain digital music that is essentially identical to what is offered by lossless music services from Apple and Amazon (though not Spotify).
Then again, CDs still offer something that purely digital services can only dream of: a beautiful physical object, complete with album cover and a real sense of ownership. Plus there is the feeling that more of your money goes directly to an artist, rather than the pennies offered per. games by streaming companies.