CD sales increase for the first time since 2004

Data: RIAA; Graphic: Jacques Schrag/Axios

Dust off those plastic filing cabinets that used to live in the back seat of your car and fire up the boombox, because compact discs are back.

  • CD sales saw year-over-year growth for the first time since 2004, according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual sales report.
  • Combined with the decade-long explosion in vinyl sales, overall physical music sales rose for the first time since 1996.

Why is it important: Streaming is the new engine of the music industry, but physical music is enjoying a resurgence that can no longer be considered a passing fad driven by hardcore collectors.

By the numbers: Physical music sales skyrocketed to $1.65 billion in the United States last year, according to RIAA data.

  • CD sales reached $584.2 million nationwide last year, up more than $100 million from 2020. By comparison, vinyl sales in 2021 rose to $1 billion. per year, compared to $643.9 million.

Enlarge: This is particularly good news for local record stores, like Grimey’s on East Trinity Lane. Co-owner Doyle Davis tells Axios that vinyl is still king, but CD sales “have held up.”

  • Davis has noticed strong CD sales for new albums, especially when there is a delay in vinyl release, and cited Adia Victoria’s new album last year as an example.
  • “I think it’s really about young people discovering that they love hard copies of music in the digital age,” Davis said.

Be smart: The CD was the music industry’s premier format in the 1990s, peaking at $13.2 billion in annual sales in 2000.

  • You know what happened next. Napster and illegal streaming sites have given way to paid streaming, which now accounts for $8.6 billion in annual revenue.
  • In addition to record stores, artists have enjoyed the rise in sales of vinyl — and now CDs — as it gives them another avenue to sell their music.

What they say : “I just think it’s all great,” Davis said. “It’s a testament to the overall health and comeback of physical media in general.”

Jack L. Goldstein