CD sales in US increase for 1st 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

Put down the Spotify playlist and dust off those old compact disc storage cases — physical CDs appear to be making a comeback. 

U.S. sales for CDs in 2021 increased for the first time in almost two decades, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)‘s annual sales report. CD sales increased from 31.6 million to 46.6 million in that same period, the data shows — the first uptick since 2004.

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

Of course, CD sales remain far from the peak in 2000, when total revenue in the U.S. accounted for $13.2 billion and nearly a billion CDs were shipped. But the recent uptick highlights a cultural trend in the resurgence of physical music amid an industry now dominated by streaming.

The RIAA’s published data also echoes a similar report from MRC Data published earlier this year, in collaboration with Billboard

"CD sales have been on the decline for more than a decade and a half," Jason Lipshutz, Billboard's senior director of music, said last month of MRC's report. "So the fact that they rose even slightly in 2021 is really interesting."

Lipshutz also noted how 2021 offered more of an opportunity to buy physical CDs after the pandemic closed stores in 2020. But at the same time, he speculated that a CD resurgence could be following in the footsteps of vinyl. 

Vinyl sales have been steadily increasing over the past decade. RIAA’s data shows the figure hit 39.7 million in the U.S. in 2021 and brought in $1 billion in revenue. 

Sales from streaming services, both paid subscriptions and ad-supported subscriptions, made up the majority of revenue, data from RIAA shows. Paid subscriptions made up 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 that he noticed interest in CDs gain momentum during the pandemic.

"I’m 22, I grew up on the internet," one customer at Village Revival Records told the news station last month. "The 90s is having a revival — on TikTok, 90’s fashion is having a revival and the same thing with CDs."

This story was reported from Cincinnati.