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Adele’s 30 drives first US CD sales increase in 17 years

Last year saw CD sales in the US rise for the first time in 17 years, with Adele’s much-anticipated 30 accounting for over 2% of all CD purchases, according to MRC Data’s 2021 Year-End Report, which was shared via Billboard.

The report shows that CD album sales in the US rose by 1.1% on 2020, with total sales hitting 40.59 million, compared to 40.16 million in 2020. And it was UK artist Adele who spearheaded the increase, with her album 30 selling close to 900,000 copies in CD format, equating to 2.15% in total CD sales for the year.

Other key market drivers were Taylor Swift, with the re-releases of her albums Fearless and Red, and BTS’ 2020 albums Map Of The Soul and Be.

While the CD format may have enjoyed an unexpected turn in fortunes, vinyl set a new record in the US as it outsold CDs for the first time since 1991 (when MRC Data began recording annual sales). The format registered a 51.4% sales increase on 2020, with purchases up from 27.55 million to 41.72 million.

Despite streaming’s overall dominance on both sides of the pond, the UK also experienced growth in physical music formats, with vinyl sales topping five million, representing a 30-year high an increase of 8% on 2020.

CD sales in the UK also rose 15% year-on-year, with Adele’s 30, ABBA’s Voyage and Ed Sheeran’s = among the biggest sellers.

“The return of physical music sales to growth a full two decades since they started to decline is nothing short of a miracle,” said Kim Bayley, CEO of ERA, the UK trade body for entertainment retail. “It is a testament more than anything to the doggedness and resilience of physical retailers, led by the indies, who have driven the vinyl revival in the face of some initial scepticism.”

Commenting on the entire retail landscape across music, video and gaming entertainment, she added: “The entire sector was braced for revenues to settle down in 2021 after 2020 grew an astonishing 18.7%, but growth continued – for the ninth successive year.

“Strikingly this growth is increasingly independent of new release activity; the vast majority of this growth being driven by digital services making entertainment more accessible and convenient than ever before. If we can repeat this success in 2022, the UK entertainment market will exceed £10bn for the first time.”

Earlier this week, BPI CEO Geoff Taylor hailed the UK’s increasing appetite for music, after new figures revealed that consumption in 2021 grew by 2.5%.

“As our lives continue to be disrupted, the past 12 months have reminded us again of the important role that recorded music plays in our lives,” he said. 

“At the same time, the rise of streaming has empowered more artists than ever – from all backgrounds and eras – to build new fanbases around the world and to forge successful careers in music, while record labels have continued to provide the investment and support needed for British talent to thrive and reach a truly global audience.

“Modern artists strive to build the biggest possible global audience and utilise 24/7 digital marketing to stand out in the streaming era. Record labels help bring artists’ creative visions to life and the hundreds of millions of pounds labels invest in the UK each year is supporting the emergence of a new wave of musicians connecting with millions of fans all over the world.

“Success today is gauged in the multi-millions, sometimes billions of streams, which generate micropayments that build over time, in line with relative popularity and demand from fans. This year’s growth shows there is a huge appetite for music and we believe that by working together we can increase the value of the whole music market, so that streaming can support even more artists in the future.”