Image: PxHere

With dozens of music streaming services that can instantly put millions of songs at subscribers’ fingertips and even digital stores specializing in lossless and/or hi-res formats (e.g., FLAC) to appease audiophiles, sales of music CDs must look as pathetic as ever, right? Wrong. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s latest annual sales report, CD sales actually went up this year, growing to a surprising $584 million. That figure is not only $100 million higher than 2020, but it also marks the first increase in U.S. CD sales since 2004. Vinyl sales also increased admirably this year from $643 million to $1 billion, another indication that physical music is making a serious resurgence.

Image: Axios

CD sales grow for first time since 2004 (Axios)

  • Streaming is the new lifeblood of the music industry, but physical music is enjoying a resurgence that can no longer be dismissed as a passing fad driven by hardcore collectors.
  • CD sales grew to $584.2 million nationally last year, up more than $100 million from 2020. By comparison, 2021 vinyl sales increased to $1 billion annually, up from $643.9 million.
  • The CD was the music industry’s leading format in the 1990s, peaking at $13.2 billion in annual sales in 2000.

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20 comments

  1. I haven't tried hi fi tidal or whatever... But Spotify is garbage. The better headphones I got the worse they sound to me. Plus also, i swear quality declined more and more as the years passed ( had them for a number of years). Music in spotify always feels incomplete, i didn't suffer of this feeling with cds, even with lower quality equipment or headphones. Only tidal, the highest quality offers sound to be as the master if available. Clearly telling me they screw around with the masters in a million ways, it matters little if the song is uncompressed and is 50gb a minute, if you had trimmed crap out of it , it will sound wrong.
    So yes I can see how cd sales are up.. I have been thinking of getting a few myself just to hear proper music. It is frustrating.
  2. I mean... if you dwindle down to where you are only selling a dozen CD's a year, and then you sell 13 one year - yeah, that's an increase. But hardly notable.

  3. Glad I still have my dvd/cd drive.
    I always struggle to remember what I use my optical drives for. I kept my DVD drive around cuz it was carried over from previous systems, and I got a blu-ray drive for my berfday some years ago. But in this day and age, I rarely ever use optical drives. However you just reminded me of one thing I actually do still use them for: ripping audio CDs to FLAC format.
  4. I always struggle to remember what I use my optical drives for. I kept my DVD drive around cuz it was carried over from previous systems, and I got a blu-ray drive for my berfday some years ago. But in this day and age, I rarely ever use optical drives. However you just reminded me of one thing I actually do still use them for: ripping audio CDs to FLAC format.
    I have a library less than a mile from my house. I’m not a big movie watcher but every once in a while I’ll check something out from the library. Sometimes a cd. Other than that the drive just sits there.
  5. I haven't tried hi fi tidal or whatever... But Spotify is garbage. The better headphones I got the worse they sound to me. Plus also, i swear quality declined more and more as the years passed ( had them for a number of years). Music in spotify always feels incomplete, i didn't suffer of this feeling with cds, even with lower quality equipment or headphones. Only tidal, the highest quality offers sound to be as the master if available. Clearly telling me they screw around with the masters in a million ways, it matters little if the song is uncompressed and is 50gb a minute, if you had trimmed crap out of it , it will sound wrong.
    So yes I can see how cd sales are up.. I have been thinking of getting a few myself just to hear proper music. It is frustrating.

    Do you set the quality setting under advanced settings to its highest?

    I have pretty good listening equipment, and I have never had a problem, with the quality.
  6. Interesting. I wonder what is driving this.

    Are the hipsters starting to move from Vinyl to CD's now, thinking it is "cool" and "old school"? :p

    I still have my CD rack sitting next to my system, but the funny part is that I no longer have a CD player. I mean, I have a USB bluray in a closet somewhere, but I'd struggle if I had to find it, as I haven't used it in a while. I used to use it to rip movies on it, but I just havent been doing that much since the move, since I havent had my home theater setup.
  7. I pretty much get everything from HD Tracks. I honestly can hear the difference between most CDs and the Hi-Res stuff I get there. I say most because in the last couple of years 24/44.1 has really taken hold and to me, it's almost the same as 16/44.1. Meanwhile, if I play something that's either 24/96 or 24/192 there's a huge change in the overall sound. The thing I hate most with a lot of newer albums I've gotten in the last couple of years that the high end seems gone and the mid-range seems compressed. I've read articles where engineers say the new 24/44.1 compression techniques are superior, hence why they've lessened using the higher rates, but I'm not hearing improvement.
  8. On that note, if I really still want a disc I'll burn it myself but I'm happy to stream from my tablet to whatever device via BT. BT protocols have improved in recent years and, depending on the device and app, you can stream some Hi-Res with it.

    Edit: At home though, I mostly play straight from an HDD with our Onkyo receiver.
  9. I have a CD player and regularly use it too. Streaming sounds like unadulterated crap anyway even on high quality, maybe due to their crappy software, don't know, don't care. Half of the music I listen to isn't even on streaming.

    And yes I do have a vinyl record player, and would rather listen to 45s from the sixties than to spotify.
    I used to be subscribed to spotify, even google music, but I'd use it so rarely that it was literally like donating money to them.
  10. I pretty much get everything from HD Tracks. I honestly can hear the difference between most CDs and the Hi-Res stuff I get there. I say most because in the last couple of years 24/44.1 has really taken hold and to me, it's almost the same as 16/44.1. Meanwhile, if I play something that's either 24/96 or 24/192 there's a huge change in the overall sound. The thing I hate most with a lot of newer albums I've gotten in the last couple of years that the high end seems gone and the mid-range seems compressed. I've read articles where engineers say the new 24/44.1 compression techniques are superior, hence why they've lessened using the higher rates, but I'm not hearing improvement.

    My take is that if you use the full dynamic range of of 16/44.1 you shouldn't be able to tell the difference, but there are a lot of poor masters out there, especially on releases from the mid 90's through ~2010 that gave in to the loudness wars and compressed everything to make it louder, resulting in quantization errors and in general ****tier sound.

    Amusingly enough streaming audio services have helped with this, by normalizing volume during playback resulting in less pressure for releases to compress for loudness, and has helped the trend recover towards one with more dynamic range. Still, a lot of releases out there and in your stack of CD's have been overcompressed and will thus sound ****ty.

    I have some newer remasters of older albums in 16/44.1 that sound really good though.
  11. Back in the CD and DVD days, spools of decent-to-good quality blank media could be purchased for really cheap, especially with sales. I don't think I have ever seen spools of blank blu-rays ever get cheap. My BD drive can burn discs, that's a function that's definitely never going to get used.
  12. Back in the CD and DVD days, spools of decent-to-good quality blank media could be purchased for really cheap, especially with sales. I don't think I have ever seen spools of blank blu-rays ever get cheap. My BD drive can burn discs, that's a function that's definitely never going to get used.
    It could be free for all I care, it's not holding enough data. When I got my first CD writer my hard drive was 1.5GB. So 640 or 700MB CD was a huge deal.

    For optical media to be relevant again as backup and storage it would need to hold at the bare minimum 1 TB / disc to peek my interest.
  13. Yeah optical media stopped being attractive once thumb drives got cheap. Faster, more durable, reusable, doesn’t require a drive, comes in various sizes at various price points, and can go much larger than current optical can store.
  14. The only thing I still use optical for is physical 4K movies. I wait until what I want is on sale and try to get the ones that come with digital codes. That way I get the best of both worlds. On the days I have the energy to see and hear the difference I'll play the disc on either the LG C9 or projector and crank it up. Otherwise, I've come to appreciate streaming on everything else.

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