Skip to main content

CDs are back! Compact disc sales just rose for the first time in 17 years

CDs are back! Compact disc sales just rose for the first time in 17 years
(Image credit: Multimediadiscount - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CD_DVD_Collections.jpg)

Dig out your old Discman: CD sales just rose for the first time in 17 years. 

According to data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) (opens in new tab), shipments of compact discs rose from 31.6 million in 2020 to 46.6 million in 2021 – a rise of 47 per cent. Revenue also rose from $483.2 million to $584.2 million. The last time sales of CDs were on the up was in 2004.

CD sales peaked in 2000, when nearly a billion discs were shipped in the US alone. But now it seems the format is following in the footsteps of the vinyl revival – sales of records have been rising steadily in the US for over 15 years now. In 2021, 39.7 million records were sold in the US, generating nearly $1 billion, a noticeably higher return compared to CD revenue.

But as you would expect, streaming is still top dog. Paid subscriptions to streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and Amazon Music accounted for over 57 per cent of music revenue ($8.6 billion), with ad-supported streams bringing in another $1.8 billion. CD and vinyl album sales combined accounted for less than 11 per cent of revenue. So don't expect Spotify to go away any time soon, no matter what Neil Young might say.

While streaming has undoubted convenience compared to physical media, many of us still prefer owning a physical object – something that digital files can't replicate. And that's why we still regularly review CD players and record decks

Streaming companies have also been in the headlines of late over the percentage of royalties they pay to artists, while Spotify was also in the dock for spreading misinformation concerning covid vaccines (which prompted some musicians to remove their music from Spotify). The sound quality has also come in for criticism from certain parties who don't mince their words. Perhaps that's why Kanye West decided to go one step further and launch his latest album on its own dedicated hardware...

MORE:

The tech behind the big vinyl revival

Why I don’t think Spotify HiFi is coming any time soon (and why it doesn’t matter)

Hi-res music streaming services compared

The best CD players

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.