CD Sales Up for the First Time in 17 Years: Here’s Why

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

For the first time in 17 years, CD sales are… actually up.

According to an annual report from MRC Data, sales of CDs went up from 40.16 million units in 2020 to 40.49 million in 2021. And we have big-name tentpole acts like BTS, Adele, and Taylor Swift to praise for it.

Vinyl album sales volume increased a massive 50.4% in 2021, as well. That includes the single biggest volume sales week for vinyl album since 1991.

On Thursday (January 6), Billboard reported that Adele is a significant reason for the upward trend in 2021 CD sales (and music sales in general!). Her latest LP, 30, was last year’s top-selling record across all physical and digital platforms. It was also the top-selling CD in 2021, moving 898,000 units.

As Billboard noted, however, “had 30 not been released in 2021, total CD sales would have been down year-over-year.”

Speaking of Adele, who seems to break records wherever she goes, the singer teased a new music video on Instagram on Thursday, also writing, “Rested and Re-Set! Feeling ready for 2022, there’s so much coming, I’m excited for you all to see it x”

In other CD sales news, Swift, who was promoting three albums last year, sold nearly 700,000 CDs. Evermore sold 213,000. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) sold 263,000 and Red (Taylor’s Version) sold 237,000. BTS’s 2020 LPs Map Of The The Soul: 7 and Be sold 1.03 million CDs combined in 2021.

Together, the three acts represent 7.1 percent of all CD sales in 2021, Stereogum pointed out.

Whether or not this trend will carry over to subsequent years remains unclear. Perhaps if other big-name artists release new albums in groups like Swift, Adele and BTS did in 2021 there will be a continued uptick.

Swift is reportedly hard at work at future “Taylor’s Version” versions of her albums. Adele will likely take some time off now after 30. Perhaps BTS will offer a new full-length on the heels of their successful 2021. Perhaps with Coldplay!

In the meantime, there are rumors of a new Dr. Dre record, Eminem, too. They could continue to push the needle so that the rest of us can bring back the old plastic binders we kept in our cars in high school (or was that just me?)

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