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CDs are making a comeback for the first time in 15 years

CD sales had been steadily declining since 2004, but something changed in 2021.

cd on purple background
Image: KnowTechie

Streaming has been the primary option for listening to music for about a decade now. But prior to the emergence of services like Spotify and Apple Music, music fans turned to CDs. And, now, they are starting to make a comeback.

According to recent data published by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), CD sales increased in 2021 for the first time since 2004. CD sales in 2020 reached around $483 million and 2021 sales were up to $584 million.

The last time that CDs saw an increase in sales, they were the absolute king of music formats. $11.4 billion worth of CDs were sold in 2004, making up more than 90 percent of the entire music industry’s revenue.

cd sales 1
Image: Recording Industry Association of America

Now, however, that crown is definitely worn by the streaming industry. Streaming services, both paid and ad-supported, have helped bounce the music industry back to the astonishing numbers that it was bringing in at the turn of the century.

But this resurgence of CDs in the industry join in the overall comeback of physical music. For example, vinyl records have been making a comeback for the past decade, with 2021 vinyl sales reaching $1 billion.

Why CDs have started to make a comeback is unclear to me. Vinyl, I understand, as listening to music from a vinyl record gives a more unique and distinct sound over digital. But CD-quality music is very similar to the quality that you get from digital music.

And you get a lot less convenience with CDs. Still, there’s no disputing the numbers. CD sales definitely increased for the first time in a while in 2021. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, or if this was just another strange effect of the COVID pandemic.

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Contributing writer with a passion for gaming and tech. Probably getting wrecked by some kids in Rocket League.

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