Music CD sales increased last year for the first time since 2004

midian182

Posts: 8,171   +97
Staff member
In brief: As with so many retro items, it seems that the next thing making a comeback is the CD. The humble compact disc is experiencing a vinyl-like resurgence that has seen CD music sales increase for the first time in almost two decades.

The annual sales report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reveals that CD sales in the US rose from 31.6 million in 2020 to 46.6 million in 2021, with revenue jumping from $483.2 million to $584.2 million, marking the first year-on-year growth for the format since 2004.

Those figures are still a long way from the near-billion CD album sales and $13.2 billion in revenue during compact discs' peak in 2000, but any increase is still significant.

Vinyl sales, of course, have been on the increase for over 15 years now; for the first time since the 1980s, vinyl album sales generated more revenue than CD sales during the first half of 2020. Last year saw 39.7 million vinyl units sold in the US in 2021, totaling $1 billion in revenue.

Combined with the CD sales boom, overall physical music sales were on the rise last year for the first time since 1996.

Axios reports that one factor behind the increase in CD sales has been the delays in vinyl albums, which some people incorrectly blamed on Adele.

But none of this means physical music media is anywhere near challenging its digital alternative. CD and vinyl albums made up less than 11% of all music sales last year, while paid subscriptions brought in 57.2% of all revenue ($8.6 billion), and ad-supported sales made $1.8 billion.

Image credit: Brett Jordan

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Neatfeatguy

Posts: 943   +1,635
I'm not looking to buy any more CDs in terms of music, but I still listen to CDs in my car. It's good to see it's a tech that's not slowly dying off and making some kind of come back.

I was honestly surprised that the 2016 CX-5 I picked up a few years ago actually had a CD player in it. I was stoked, though. I've still got about 7 dozen CDs that I cycle through overtime. Nothing good to listen to on the radio, I listen to a CD....or sometimes I just want silence and I turn the radio off (this drives my kids crazy, they can't have just a quiet car ride. They complain that there's nothing playing).

I don't stream music from my phone.
I don't stream music from third party apps (such as spotify, for example).
If I'm not listening to the radio, then it's a CD or nothing else.
 

Raytrace3D

Posts: 348   +424
I'm not looking to buy any more CDs in terms of music, but I still listen to CDs in my car. It's good to see it's a tech that's not slowly dying off and making some kind of come back.

I was honestly surprised that the 2016 CX-5 I picked up a few years ago actually had a CD player in it. I was stoked, though. I've still got about 7 dozen CDs that I cycle through overtime. Nothing good to listen to on the radio, I listen to a CD....or sometimes I just want silence and I turn the radio off (this drives my kids crazy, they can't have just a quiet car ride. They complain that there's nothing playing).

I don't stream music from my phone.
I don't stream music from third party apps (such as spotify, for example).
If I'm not listening to the radio, then it's a CD or nothing else.
I just toss a bunch of music on a USB stick (several hundred gigs worth) and listen in my truck. I found it too cumbersome to grab a CD while driving and much easier to just navigate a menu to choose an album while driving. That said, I use to listen to mix tapes my wife would make me when I had to drive so to each his own. Those were the days... lol
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 2,074   +1,654
CD's are the vinyl of the millenial generation. We are all getting to dad age at the moment and that means lots of us are going to start buying CDs that we wanted or had when we were teenagers. Fortunately I still have my CD collection, with my Blink 182 - Enema of the state - the first album I ever bought!
 

R00sT3R

Posts: 696   +2,135
Let me guess, Gen Zs discovering their parents CD collection and thinking they're so cute and have to have some of that!
 

defaultluser

Posts: 481   +369
I'm not looking to buy any more CDs in terms of music, but I still listen to CDs in my car. It's good to see it's a tech that's not slowly dying off and making some kind of come back.

I was honestly surprised that the 2016 CX-5 I picked up a few years ago actually had a CD player in it. I was stoked, though. I've still got about 7 dozen CDs that I cycle through overtime. Nothing good to listen to on the radio, I listen to a CD....or sometimes I just want silence and I turn the radio off (this drives my kids crazy, they can't have just a quiet car ride. They complain that there's nothing playing).

I don't stream music from my phone.
I don't stream music from third party apps (such as spotify, for example).
If I'm not listening to the radio, then it's a CD or nothing else.

if you don't want complex digital streaming playback, just copy your digital library on to a USB stick!

Or, if you want that "switch a CD to switch your mind-frame" interactivity, you can create your own custom mp3 CDs (every modern car cd system supports these, and can fit about 10x as many tracks vs uncompressed) - just be aware of how long your music folder names are, as there is a lower limit than on Windows NTFS!
 
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p51d007

Posts: 3,315   +2,923
CD's are the vinyl of the millenial generation. We are all getting to dad age at the moment and that means lots of us are going to start buying CDs that we wanted or had when we were teenagers. Fortunately I still have my CD collection, with my Blink 182 - Enema of the state - the first album I ever bought!

Shoot...I remember 45's, 33 1/3 & 78's ;)
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,489   +2,207
Optical is still a valuable format for storing data. It doesn't suffer bit rot the same way HDDs and SSDs do, so much as actual physical rot, and depending on the disc type and storage conditions this is relatively easy to mitigate. M-discs in particular are supposed to be robust enough to last hundreds of years in the worst conditions.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,550   +6,003
if you don't want complex digital streaming playback, just copy your digital library on to a USB stick!

Or, if you want that "switch a CD to switch your mind-frame" interactivity, you can create your own custom mp3 CDs (every modern car cd system supports these, and can fit about 10x as many tracks vs uncompressed) - just be aware of how long your music folder names are, as there is a lower limit than on Windows NTFS!
You dont own your digital streaming collection. You DO own your CD collection. There's a big reason to wn the CD right there.
Honestly, I can see it being due to the instability of streaming services. You literally never know when your favourite song or artist is going to be delisted, so it's a good idea to have a permanent copy and I think people are realizing that. Same with video streaming.
There's a growing push, in the wake of the last two years of cancel culture hysteria, to get physical backups of EVERYTHING, because streaming platforms will delist your favorite music because one of the creators said a spicy thing 50 years ago. Either that or the content gets altered post release.

If you own it on CD you can move it to digital and listen to it no matter where you are, forever.
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,763   +4,700
TechSpot Elite
Optical is still a valuable format for storing data. It doesn't suffer bit rot the same way HDDs and SSDs do, so much as actual physical rot, and depending on the disc type and storage conditions this is relatively easy to mitigate. M-discs in particular are supposed to be robust enough to last hundreds of years in the worst conditions.
CDs break and scratch so easily that they're not useful at all nowadays. Disc rot is also a thing.
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,763   +4,700
TechSpot Elite
You must have punished your physical media. I've got CDs and DVDs that I've had for 15+ years, they have minor visible blemishes (minor scratches that don't impact playback) and still work like they're new.
Just from regular use. I also have a lot CDs and DVDs that have lasted a very long time (a decade or more), but many didn't so it doesn't really make them good for long term data backups.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,489   +2,207
CDs break and scratch so easily that they're not useful at all nowadays. Disc rot is also a thing.
It's also a think I mentioned in the very post you quoted - physical rot. And, again, this is easily mitigated by storing them properly. Don't toss them around your room, use them as coasters or throw them in a cardboard box in a greenhouse and they'll last for decades, and with dedicated archival mediums, even longer. Bit rot on HDDs and SSDs, by comparison, is all but unavoidable, no matter how carefully they're stored and treated, because the fundamental design of the former's delicate mechanical components, and the latter's reliance on holding electromagnetic charge, makes them less durable on a longer time scale.
 

Aaron Fox

Posts: 153   +90
The quality of the dye used in the CDR is important, as is the storage conditions.

Red Book (CD audio) is not as good as human hearing but it's a lot better than the junk that is foisted on us most of the time via networks — like all of the bad Bluetooth audio implementations. I'd rather have something that's at least CD quality (really CD quality, not claiming to be CD quality and not actually being that).
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,855   +7,766
Just from regular use. I also have a lot CDs and DVDs that have lasted a very long time (a decade or more), but many didn't so it doesn't really make them good for long term data backups.
I don't really take chances with my CD collection. The first thing I do with a new CD, is rip it at lossless quality, to at least two HDDs.
Then, I burn it at half speed (24x), to a blank. The original goes back into its case to (hopefully), never be needed again. The burned discs go into my CD changers.

Besides,all CDs aren't, "all hits, all the time". There's a lot of sh!t on your average album, that was written as "album filler". They get deleted on the copies.. Plus, oftentimes the cuts the the artist(s) feel, "is their best work", flat out suck.
I have odd tastes though. For example I can't abide Led Zeppelin until Jimmy Page picks up his 12 string.

Off topic be this as it may, China Eastern airlines just drilled another one of those pesky Boeing 737's, with 132 people aboard. I smell another recall in the making
 
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Puiu

Posts: 5,763   +4,700
TechSpot Elite
The quality of the dye used in the CDR is important, as is the storage conditions.

Red Book (CD audio) is not as good as human hearing but it's a lot better than the junk that is foisted on us most of the time via networks — like all of the bad Bluetooth audio implementations. I'd rather have something that's at least CD quality (really CD quality, not claiming to be CD quality and not actually being that).
If you have access to FLAC then you are fine with normal headphones/speakers (I use a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 770 80Ohm headphones). You don't have to use bluetooth.
 

Aaron Fox

Posts: 153   +90
If you have access to FLAC then you are fine with normal headphones/speakers (I use a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 770 80Ohm headphones). You don't have to use bluetooth.
My post cited networking as the context because that is the origin of the downgrading of audio quality — as the massive trend. It started with mp3 and continued on to things like Bluetooth codecs.

Some streaming/downloading is now lossless but people such as myself who care about audio quality waited for a very very long time for that to become part of the networking distribution system. And, it's still not comprehensive in terms of what's available.

It made sense to use lossy compression to distribute files via the Internet when fast broadband wasn't easily had. Even today quite a few people have slow Internet. However, things like Sony's Bluetooth codec — which uses mostly smoke and mirrors to disguise its inability to provide a lossless experience with even the Red Book data level in many cases are part of the big trend that was a switch from people valuing the quality of a high-quality standard like Red Book toward consuming degraded audio. YouTube as a music player is, of course, a large part of that as well. When I last uploaded content to that site the highest data rate was around 152K for the audio. Lossless compression for Red Book can be over 1000K.

CD audio should have been 20-bit 48 KHz. That would have covered the full ability of human hearing. It would have spared audiophiles a lot of snake oil as well as complex oversampling schemes for dealing with the inadequacy of Red Book. The industry, though, went in the wrong direction twice. First, it was with MiniDisc, which degraded the audio significantly more than Red Book. Then, it was with SACD which used an absurd sampling rate and an unnecessary 24-bit pipe. 20 bits is enough to cover human hearing completely.

CDs should have been physically larger to accommodate the extra data from 20-bit 48K and also so that a double LP, such as the Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me would fit onto a single disc. That one had to cut one of the songs for the CD release.

Sony's latest Bluetooth standard doesn't target Red Book quality. It overshoots the market and ends up often subjecting listeners to something very inferior to Red Book. It's unfortunate that youth educational programmes don't teach things like the basics of audio science. A lot more people deal with that than with trigonometry. It would take very little time in a curriculum to include that and could be part of a health course since hearing damage is a big problem that became increasingly exacerbated with the rise of mp3 players.