Music Business

4 reasons CD sales are on the rise

It’s time to pull out your Discmans, because from cost, to nostalgia, to manufacturing, CD’s are making a real comeback.

by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0.

Ever since streaming took over the music fan’s consciousness a decade ago, CD sales have dropped like a rock. Why own a disc collection when you can access all the same music online for a lot less money? That outlook may now be changing though, because believe it or not, CDs are popular again.

According to the RIAA, CD sales revenue increased by 21% and the number of units sold grew by a whopping 47% over the previous year. These figures might be a little deceiving in the most people weren’t going to shows or out to visit retailers during the pandemic-stricken year of 2020. That said, the great numbers from last year might be low, as the RIAA can’t count the units that indie artists and bands press themselves and sell at shows.

There are a number of reasons why artists are turning to CDs as their main physical merch product. Here are a few:

  • Fans consider it a souvenir. Many fans relish the ability to support their favorite artist and get a keepsake at the same time. This is especially true in Asia, where J-Pop and K-Pop artists sell millions of CDs to their fans. BTS is a great example, although their success is difficult to replicate.
  • CDs are cheaper than vinyl. They’re a great alternative to vinyl because they’re cheaper to manufacture and therefor, have a lower sales price than vinyl. For instance, a run of 100 CDs can be made for around $2 each while the same order for vinyl might be as high as $20 each.
  • CDs are easier to transport than vinyl. They’re in a smaller package so they’re easier to carry around, plus aren’t as sensitive to heat or breakage.
  • CDs are faster to manufacturer. With vinyl orders taking up to 9 months for delivery right now, the time frame may be way outside of the best marketing window for an artist. The turnaround time for a run of CDs can be in as little as 3 days.

We wrote off the CD a few years ago and expected it to go the way of the dinosaur, but now the round plastic disc looks to be making a comeback. We’re not going back to the good ol’ days of the billion per year sales, but they look like they’ll have a smaller a vinyl-like comeback. Yep, it looks like CDs are popular again.

Bobby Owsinski is a producer/engineer, author, and coach. He has authored 24 books on recording, music, the music business and social media.

MORE: Move over vinyl, CDs are making a real comeback

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