Music CD sales increased in 2021 for the first time in 17 years

Sales of music CDs increased from 40.16 million units in 2020 to 40.59 million in 2021, according to a yearly report from music data compiler MRC Data and Billboard, marking the first time CD sales have increased year-over-year since 2004.

compact disc

Weston Blasi for MarketWatch:

CDs weren’t the only old-fashioned music format that saw gains in 2021 — vinyl album sales volume increased a massive 50.4% year-over-year. Also in 2021, vinyl sales saw their single-largest sales week since 1991, when 2.11 million vinyl albums were sold the week of Dec. 23.

Boosts in physical music sales in a streaming-dominated music ecosystem can likely be attributed to a few big album releases, particularly by female artists. Adele, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo all sold heavy volume of physical CDs in 2021 as each artist released albums last year.

MacDailyNews Take: Despite this teeny increase in CD sales, music streaming on Apple Music, the No.1 service in the U.S., the world’s largest music market, and other like Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and other still dominate with U.S. on-demand audio streams surpassing the 20 billion weekly milestone for the first time this year. Music streaming on Apple Music and other hit a new single-year high of 988.1 billion streams in 2021 (up 12.6% from 877.2 billion in 2020).

The full MRC Billboard Year End Report U.S. 2021 is here.

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  1. There’s satisfaction in getting something tangible for artists I really like. But not from every artist. I don’t need stacks of physical CDs accumulating over time like before. There’s also the problem of not having an active CD player. I need to dig up my dusty external optical drive and connect to my MacBook when I need to play a CD. Then I immediately rip it into my iTunes library for future playing. And if that album is available on Music, I just play it from there without ever playing CD directly.

  2. I know that purists will say that the audio quality of a stream is not up to par with a CD, but those same nitpickers said the same about vinyl vs CDs back in the day. Considering how our hearing deteriorates with age, I’m ok with streams!

    1. If one believes the Apple rumors (which means it may or may not be true), Apple will be using Ultra Wideband connection (instead of bluetooth) from iPhone/certain Apple devices to new AirPods Pro. This provides far more than enough to decrease latency and increase bandwidth to get personal music listening from Apple Music to just about CD quality. Otherwise there are wired solutions that will give you very close to CD quality with Apple Music.

      As to whether anyone can tell the difference CD to nearly CD to ALAC? There was Dog Boy from an old movie. He could hear the difference certainly. Regardless, Apple Music lossless with UWB or wired kinda wipes out the whole CD has a better sound (unless one suspends the belief that a digital signal directly read from a CD is different from the exact same digital signal sent from Apple Music).,

  3. This is no concern for Apple.

    But, I do hope some of Apples devs and UX experts ask themselves the ‘why’ question….why would a teen, or 20-30 something do this.

    Here’s the short answer… for all the convenience digital offers, its just too bloated out of the box use out of the box quickly. My car still has a cd drive…I don’t have to think about swiping or toggling or dinking about a jacked up library because the phones UX is now a hot mess, because Apple couldn’t leave well enough alone and now my I can’t tell if I”m listening to my library or my Apple temp free music sample…. my point is, Apple hooked on the world on

    A simple and intuitive experience and your stuff worked…your music was there.
    Popping in a CD is simple and intuitive.

    Apple’s devs could fix a few issues by just back on their past successs checking out their past.

    Alas, I almost forget…it’s also possible that these guys just think it’s cool. A harken back to a more innocent time. Be even that still means it’s simple and intuitive.

    1. ???? If CDs are selling a tiny amount, then it goes up in sales 50%, that’s tiny plus a half tiny. You actually think Apple needs to ask why and how that could happen, really?

      The story points out music streaming passed a huge milestone, something that CDs will never hope to even come remotely close to.

      I have a huge stack of CDs from the day. I digitized them and still have some in iTunes. The idea that I or anyone I know is going to start back down that road is DOA.

  4. As time marches on I’m starting to lean back to vinyl. Why? A couple of things I guess. My old vinyl sounds better than some of the digital conversions of older music. They really botched some of them. I’m getting some great deals on old vinyl in pristine condition at a local used record store. Second, with the hassle of reauthorizing purchases from an old ID and the drive to get you to subscribe to streaming and not really owning what you purchased, I just feel like they are slowly trying to take away what I can control and continuously drain money from me. No thanks. Sure I’ll still buy stuff from iTunes but if that stops being an option and subscribing is the only thing to do, I’ll pass.

    1. I’m in complete agreement with you I think people are getting sick of subscriptions. What a waste of money. Just another corporate sham and way to make MORE money

  5. Being an audiophile (little ‘a’) I’ve never understood the arguments folks have about the formats.

    I absolutely love streaming. Driving hours a day with my playlist of Bruce, Black Keys, 59 or 6-4 Jazz, America, Rachmaninoff, Early, Mid or Late Beatles, anything from 2L Music, whatever the Hell!!

    I must have at least 500 CD’s to throw in my Cambridge Audio CXC, NAD C658 DAC to Peachtree Audio Nova amp (unless I’m streaming to the NAD…). Sade still rocks this system.

    But my ultimate musical enjoyment is for the few hours a week I can put some Bill Evans (Complete Village Vanguard Recordings), Joni (Hijera), Steely Dan (Aja) or any of my Miles, Paco, Jaco, Allman Bros. albums on the upstairs system with either SVS Ultra towers or some incredible two-way horn fed speakers from the early 70s. Stuff like that just doesn’t get any better to me.

    “Milestones” anybody? Disc 3, Side B, Song 3.

    But hey…what about downloads????
    Here’s some love-

    Click to access 2L090A.pdf

    Get it…and you’re welcome!!

    1. If you think lossy formats are, for you, equivalent to lossless formats (like ALAC of CD quality or better, e.g. SA-CD) then you really can’t call yourself an audiophile. One simple example is the gavel strike at the very beginning of The Phantom of the Opera recordings. Listen to it through a very high end system (and, yes, the system you use including amps and speakers DOES matter). You will hear a difference between an MP3 version, an AAC version, a CD version, and a SA-CD version (assuming they were created with the equipment appropriate to the recorded type).

      Impulse type sounds, like that gavel strike, are very poorly represented by lossy media. That’s just a fact.

      If a person’s hearing cannot tell the difference, that’s fine. A huge percentage of the world’s population cannot tell the difference. Just don’t claim to be an audiophile and then state that for you streaming, lossy media at significantly worse than losslessly compressed CD or better quality is fine.

      1. Did I say that?
        No, I didn’t. I use Tidal Hifi and Apple Lossless.
        I gave an example of DSD 324 for downloads.
        I listen to vinyl for the ultimate sound pleasure and for good reason.
        It’s just all the formats serve a purpose.

        Move on….

  6. Using Apples music match will cause anyone go back to cd’s, using it was the biggest mistake I ever made with music, also I want to see the original album Art work not the the made up pictures Apple inserts into the mix.

  7. And one more thing I will never sign up with a monthly music service ever, it is for the you will own nothing and be happy gig worker crowd. Manage your money and be richer don’t sign up more than 2 of those services a time, and if you can preferably none, your investing and saving life will be better in twenty years.

    1. I’ve done 3-4 Apple Music free trials and I hardly listened at all. I did actually enjoy Beats Music before Apple butchered it. My favorite tunes come free from an FM big band/Jazz station run out of my local high school district (the one redeeming feature of my HomePod is that I can play it there too, “Hey Siri, play KCEA radio”). If I’m ever inclined to buy an album these days, I try to get the CD if it exists and rip it. Uncounted in the numbers in this article are presumably used CDs, the actual number is probably 100 million or more. One of the few good things about our modern age is the easy access to masses of used books, cds and other media online. There is a lot of great stuff out there to occupy your mind while the masses are being programmed by Netflix and Apple Music.

      Besides being a terrible UX (constant Apple Music subscription upsells) I don’t want my property stuck exclusively in Apple’s ecosystem. As long as KCEA exists (you can listen online too) I won’t be subscribing to anything, even if that happens I’ll just listen to my music library, or the birds outside (geese just flew overhead).

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