MUST READ: Ditch the vinyl, CDs are making a comeback

We’re reposting this post from a few weeks ago because of the impact it had: while no one is suggesting that streaming is about to die out, the multi-year surge in vinyl has proven that physical goods have always a place on merchandising tables and in the hearts of fans.

But while vinyl is getting all the attention, another physical format – the CD – is also gaining popularity.

Last year, CD sales increased for the first time in 20 years. According to RIAA data, CD sales jumped to 46.6 million in 2021, a 47.7% increase from 2020. But the number of CDs sold is likely much larger.

It seems pretty clear to me that, with most self-produced CDs being sold at concerts, there is no sales tracking for the vast majority of records sold,” said Tony van Veen of leading CD manufacturer Discmakers.

Why CDs?

There are many theories behind the increase: some say it was driven by vinyl shortages while others tout the superior sound quality of the format. Another important factor is cost.

To record manufacturers a limited run of 100 CDs in full-color sleeves can cost around $2 each. This same set of 100 vinyl records costs between $20 and $25 each. While unit costs drop with larger orders of both formats, the savings that CDs offer to the artists and labels that make them as well as the fans who buy them are substantial.

music as memory

At the start of the digital shift, when South Korean teenagers started consuming all the music on their phones, the local music industry pioneered “music as a souvenir” by selling millions of 45s with booklets digital devices attached to children who had never seen a record player.

With a little creativity and care and with a very small investment, artists of all sizes can use CDs to provide a similar hands-on experience for their fans.

Bruce Houghton is founder and publisher of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and acts as principal advisor to Groupsintown who acquired both publications in 2019. He is the founder and president of the Skyline Artist Agency and a teacher for Berklee College of Music.

Jack L. Goldstein