US CD sales rise for first time in nearly 20 years

FILE IMAGE – Shoppers browse CDs at an Amoeba Music store in Los Angeles, California on April 8, 2021. Photographer: Roger Kisby/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Drop the Spotify playlist and dust off those old compact disc storage boxes – physical CDs seem to be making a comeback.

US CD sales in 2021 increased for the first time in nearly two decades, according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) annual sales report. CD sales jumped from 31.6 million to 46.6 million over the same period, the data showed – the first rise since 2004.

It also showed that the format’s revenue increased from $483.2 million in 2020 to $584.2 million in 2021.

Of course, CD sales are still far from the peak of 2000, when total US revenue was $13.2 billion and nearly a billion CDs were shipped. But the recent uptick highlights a cultural trend for the resurgence of physical music within an industry now dominated by streaming.

The data released by the RIAA also echoes a similar report by MRC Data released earlier this year, in conjunction with Billboard.

“CD sales have been down for more than a decade and a half,” Jason Lipshutz, Billboard’s senior music manager, said in the MRC report last month. “So the fact that they increased even slightly in 2021 is really interesting.”

Lipshutz also noted how 2021 offered more opportunities to buy physical CDs after the pandemic shuttered stores in 2020. But at the same time, he speculated that a resurgence in CDs might follow in the footsteps of the vinyl.

Vinyl sales have steadily increased over the past decade. RIAA data shows the figure hit 39.7 million in the US in 2021 and brought in $1 billion in revenue.

Sales from streaming services, both paid subscriptions and ad-supported subscriptions, accounted for the majority of revenue, RIAA shows data. Paid subscriptions accounted for 57.2% of total revenue measured by the RIAA in 2021, bringing in $8.6 billion last year. Ad-supported streams brought in $1.8 billion.

Jamal Alnasr, owner of Village Revival Records in Manhattan, told FOX 5 NY he’s noticed CD interest picking up during the pandemic.

“I’m 22, I grew up on the internet,” a Village Revival Records client told the news station last month. “The 90s are experiencing a revival – on TikTok, 90s fashion is experiencing a revival and the same with CDs.”

This story was reported from Cincinnati.

Jack L. Goldstein