Compact disc

The CDs are back! Sales of compact discs increased for the first time in 17 years

Break out your old Discman: CD sales just surged for the first time in 17 years.

According to data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), compact disc shipments increased from 31.6 million in 2020 to 46.6 million in 2021, an increase of 47%. Revenue also increased from $483.2 million to $584.2 million. The last time CD sales increased was in 2004.

CD sales peaked in 2000, when nearly a billion discs were shipped in the United States alone. But now it looks like the format is following in the footsteps of the vinyl revival – record sales have been growing steadily in the US for over 15 years now. In 2021, 39.7 million records were sold in the United States, generating nearly $1 billion, a return significantly higher than CD revenues.

But as you’d expect, streaming is still the best dog. Paid subscriptions to streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and Amazon Music accounted for more than 57% of music revenue ($8.6 billion), with ad-supported streams bringing in another $1.8 billion. Combined sales of CDs and vinyl albums accounted for less than 11% of revenue. So don’t expect Spotify to go away anytime soon, whatever Neil Young may say.

While streaming is unquestionably more convenient than physical media, many of us still prefer to own a physical item, which digital files cannot replicate. And that’s why we regularly review CD players and record decks.

Streaming companies have also been in the news lately over the percentage of royalties they pay out to artists, while Spotify was also in the dock for spreading misinformation about covid vaccines (which has prompted some musicians to remove their music from Spotify). The sound quality has also come in for criticism from some who don’t mince words. Maybe that’s why Kanye West decided to go further and release his latest album on his own dedicated hardware…


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