Fueled by Adele, vinyl and CD sales surged in 2021, data shows

(CNN) — Streaming has dominated the music industry for years, but 2021 saw a notable surge in physical album sales, thanks in part to the success of Adele’s latest album.

Both CDs and vinyl saw high sales in 2021, according to a annual report year-end music data chart from MRC Data, released this week.

Vinyl’s resurgence in culture has been nothing short of a rocket. In 2011, vinyl only accounted for 1.7% of physical music sales, with CDs the rest. In just 10 years, that number has risen to 50.4%, meaning vinyl has now overtaken CD as the best-selling physical format for the first time since 1991, MRC reported.

“Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that customers prefer to own music physically, in addition to the streamingusually in its best (vinyl) form,” said Tobago Benito, owner of record store DBS Sounds, in the MRC data roundup.

He attributes that both to the inclusion of turntables in movies and television, and to the joy people get from looking for a certain vinyl in a record store, one that can “bring back wonderful memories,” he said.

Adele makes a special request to Spotify 0:42

The increase in vinyl sales is also a significant jump from just a year ago, in 2020, when vinyl accounted for 27.5 million physical music sales, roughly 40% of all total sales. Representing now almost half of total sales is significant.

Part of this year’s success could be the release of “30,” Adele’s first album in six years. On vinyl, “30” sold 108,000 copies in its first week, the second-biggest week of vinyl sales since 1991, when MRC Data began tracking such sales. The album was the best-selling album on vinyl this year, followed by the reissue of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” and Taylor Swift’s “Red.”

Part of this, MRC reported, has to do with the success of Record Store Day, a popular promotion that takes place in the spring. Sales of new releases and reissues have grown on Record Store Day since 2011, MRC said, fueled by the participation of popular artists.

“From Metallica giving RSD (and by extension, records/record stores) credibility through their RSD release a decade ago, to Taylor Swift bringing vinyl editions of her recent releases to the forefront, not as a afterthought, but as an important part of its launch,” said Carl Mello, director of brand engagement for Newbury Comics, in a statement.

But one surprise from last year was the rebound in US CD sales, which increased 1.1%, from 40.2 million sales in 2020 to 40.6 million in 2021. CD sales are down steadily for years, so the fact that they weren’t actively declining last year could be significant.

One of the reasons for the increase in sales was the release of Adele’s “30” and Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)”.

Target’s CD version of “30,” which contained three bonus tracks, helped the album’s CD version sell 378,000 copies in its first week, the biggest CD-selling week of 2021, MRC said. Just a week earlier, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” sold 146,700 copies.

It’s unclear if this minuscule increase means CDs are on the upswing, but it could indicate a slight shift for those still clinging to the middle.

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Fueled by Adele, vinyl and CD sales surged in 2021, data shows


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