CD sales only increase for the first time in nearly two decades

CD sales in the US for 2021 rose for the first time in nearly two decades, according to data published by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Shipments have grown from 31.6 million in 2020 to 46.6 million in 2021, and revenue from the format has grown from $483.2 million to $584.2 million. The RIAA numbers attest to a report from MRC . Data published earlier this year.

While CD sales are still far from their 2000 peak – when nearly a billion CD albums were shipped in the US – Axios Note that the rise is another key element of the resurgence in physical music. Vinyl sales have been growing steadily for over a decade and a half now and hit 39.7 million units in the US in 2021, bringing in $1 billion in sales.


The biggest revenue stream in the US in 2021 is Paid Subscriptions with $8.6 billion.
Image: RIAA

This combination means that physical media as a whole experienced its first sales increase since 1996, but streaming is still king. Paid subscriptions account for 57.2% of revenue as measured by the RIAA in 2021 at $8.6 billion, while ad-supported streams bring in $1.8 billion. Meanwhile, sales of CDs and vinyl albums combined account for less than 11% of sales.

Personally, I would be very interested in whether this resurgence in CDs continues especially as the world emerges after two years of pandemic lockdown. CDs are great for listening to music at home, but I haven’t seen anyone carry around a bulky portable CD player in years. And while vinyl provides a different sound than digital music, CDs containing digital music are essentially identical to those offered by Apple and Amazon’s lossless music services (though, importantly, to be, not Spotify).

Then again, CD still offers something pure digital services can only dream of: a beautiful object, complete with an album cover and a real sense of ownership. Plus, it feels like more of your coins are going directly to an artist than the coins offered per play by the streaming companies. CD sales only increase for the first time in nearly two decades

Fry Electronics Team

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