Mar 11, 2022 - Technology

CD sales grow for first time since 2004

πŸ’Ώ Annual U.S. CD sales, 2011–2021
Data: RIAA; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Dust off those plastic binders that lived in the back seat of your car and fire up the boombox, because compact discs are back.

  • CD sales enjoyed 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 vinyl sales explosion, overall physical music sales grew for the first time since 1996.

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

By the numbers: Physical music sales exploded to the tune of $1.65 billion in the U.S. last year, according to the RIAA data.

  • CD sales grew to $584.2 million nationally last year, up more than $100 million from 2020. By comparison, 2021 vinyl sales increased to $1 billion annually, up from $643.9 million.

Zoom in: It's especially 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 their own."

  • Davis has noticed strong CD sales for new albums, especially when there is a delay in the vinyl release, and pointed to the new album by Adia Victoria last year as an example.
  • "I think really this is about young people who are finding they like hard copies of music in the digital age," Davis says.

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

  • You know what happened next. Napster and illegal streaming sites gave way to paid streaming, which now accounts for $8.6 billion in annual revenue.
  • In addition to record stores, artists have appreciated the rise in vinyl β€” and now CD sales β€” because it gives them another avenue to sell their music.

What they're saying: "I just think the whole thing is great," Davis says. "It speaks to the health and the overall comeback of physical media in general."

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