D.I.Y.

Move over vinyl, CDs are making a comeback

While no one is suggesting that streaming is on the way out, the multi-year surge in vinyl proved that physical goods still have a place in record stores, on merch tables, and certainly in the hearts of fans.

But while vinyl has been getting all of the attention, another physical format – the CD – has been growing in popularity as well.

Last year CD sales grew for the first time in 20 years. According to RIAA data, CD sales jumped to 46.6 million in 2021 – a 47.7% increase from 2020. But the number of CDs sold is likely much larger.

It seems pretty clear to me that, with most self-released CDs being sold at concerts, there is no sales tracking for the vast majority of discs sold,” said Tony van Veen of leading CD manufacturer Discmakers.

Why CDs?

The theories behind the increase are many: some say it was driven by vinyl shortages while others tout the format’s premium sound quality. Another major factor is cost.

At Discmakers a limited run of 100 CDs in full-color jackets can cost around $2 each. That same run of 100 vinyl records costs $20 – $25 each. While per-unit costs drop with larger orders of both formats, the savings that CDs offer the artists and labels making them as well as the fan buying them are substantial.

Music As A Souvenir

Early in the shift to digital when South Korean teens began consuming all music on their phones, the local music industry pioneered “music as a souvenir” selling millions of 45s with digital booklets attached to kids who had never seen a record player.

With a little creativity and care and with a very small investment, artists of every size can use CDs to deliver a similar hands-on experience for their fans.

Bruce Houghton is Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and serves as a Senior Advisor to Bandsintown which acquired both publications in 2019. He is the Founder and President of the Skyline Artists Agency and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.

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  3. I’m 44 and got back into both CDs and Vinyl this, after dumping Spotify over their political ineptitude. I’ve rekindled a _passion_ for music I’d lost with instant-access streaming. I’m caring about what I’m buying and listening to.

    I think that two-way thing is key; you care about what you buy. You browse what you buy. You don’t really get that flicking around on a digital system – you try it, love it or hate it and move on.

    I’d actually be vinyl only if it was cost effective, but they’re just too expensive so not suprised that others like me have embraced CDs too.

  4. CD’s are coming back? I wasn’t aware they ever left! CD’s offer sound quality that is more consistent, and, unlike vinyl LP’s, can be played in a moving car. I’d like to see a surge, too, in the SACD format. Super Audio CD’s, in particular, hybrid discs, can be played, in stereo, an any CD player. Played on an SACD player, the sound quality becomes even better, and can also include both stereo and surround sound. I’d hope we’d also see more SACD players on the market, including the car audio market. Both SACD’s and CD’s offer greater convenience, better sound, and unlike downloads, they don’t crash. I am, and will always be, a fan of that little silver disc.

  5. Agreed. There’s nothing that streaming can offer me that I can’t get from a few of my local stations. I do appreciate being able to tune into worldwide stations,though. As for the discs themselves,the portability, sound,durability are all stellar. For me,though,HDCD cds are best. That’s a process that makes a good sounding disc even better. Bring it back,folks!

  6. 1 reason for the comeback is the cost. Lp have just gone through the roof.
    Another reason for me is, sound. I have OCD n the quality of downloads n clicks skips n sticks drive me crazy. It ruins it for me. I mean to the point of where I never want to hear the music again. N for sound between lp n cd, I can make the difference close by a few adjustments. I have a 5.1 system. I also have cassettes n 45s. Just n opinion. Enjoy music everyone

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