The Vinyl Comeback: Vinyl Outsold CDs in 2021 for the First Time Since the 1980s

2021 might as well have been the year of the artist. Despite the coronavirus pandemic persisting and live shows being canceled, music nonetheless continued to offer an escape. And in the midst of this resilience, vinyl made a comeback.

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According to the studies done by MRC Data and the reporting of Quartz, the vinyl medium outsold CDs by about 1.1 million sales. In fact, in 2021, vinyl saw an increase in sales of 51% and ultimately had 41.7 million sales. These statistics crown vinyl as the top-selling physical music format for 2021, the first time that this has occurred since the 1980s. Quartz dubbed this the “vinyl renaissance,” and has taken place for a few reasons.

There is essentially a “nostalgia among older music listeners, a desire to directly support artists after live music venues shut down during the pandemic, and newfound popularity among younger generations,” according to Quartz.

And from what we’ve seen and heard, we agree.

First of all, vintage music mediums as a whole are growing in popularity. Despite vinyl outselling CDs in 2021, CDs still saw a significant increase in sales. Additionally, mainstream media has recently been reporting on how difficult it actually is for an artist to make a living off of streaming platforms (check out T-Pain’s take on streaming platforms here.)

Consequently, it has begun to be common practice again to support your favorite artists by buying a physical copy of their album. Vinyl has also become a staple of the retro aesthetic that is popular among the nostalgics and younger generations.

To put a few names (and voices) to this trend, Adele sold 1.2 million physical copies of her latest album 30 in 2021. Taylor Swift sold hundreds of thousands of physical copies of Red (Taylor’s Version), and Olivia Rodrigo got Gen-Z into the world of vinyl with her 2021 record Sour.

All in all, vinyl is back and we hope it sticks around for a long time.

Photo by Beth Garrabrant/Courtesy of Republic Records

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