Grab those plastic CD book binders and empty jewel cases and remember – always clean the underside from the center hole outward to the edge.
Because in one of the more unexpected revelations of this year’s Recording Industry Association of America’s sales report, CD sales have reversed their two-decade decline.
It’s not much of an increase in terms of the size of the overall recorded music industry, and 2021’s total CD revenue is still lower than 2019’s. But nobody was expecting this reversal in the long-neglected “Physical Sales – CD” category last year, and it was not an insignificant bump.
Total annual CD sales in the United States increased from $483 million in 2020 to $584 million in 2021 – a one year increase of 20% and $100 million in overall sales.
One factor that may play a role? Widespread delays in vinyl for new releases — which some have blamed on Adele — leading to consumers picking up the CD instead. A similar factor is at work in electronic music, where labels shut-out thanks to vinyl pressing plant backlogs have instead released what would be digital-only records on cassette tapes as well.
CD sales are still a fraction of what they were at their peak (as are vinyl sales, and overall revenue from the music industry adjusted for inflation). CD sales topped $13 billion in 2000 and still made up $3 billion of the market a decade ago. So CD sales remain a fraction of a fraction that makes up the physical product part of the music industry. But 20% growth in a $500 million segment of the industry is not something to be ignored.