After MRC published their data for the first half of 2021, I almost did a backflip. The day is here. CD sales are UP 2.2% in the US, with 18.9 million units sold. In the UK CDs are up 26.6%. That is HUGE! Why isn't anybody talking about this?
Something I came across is an article from SDE that caught my attention was Abba's new album Voyage. Their latest, long-awaited album has hit #1 on the UK charts, with 204,000 UK sales in its first week. However, if you look at most articles available, not ONE mentions their CD sales. However, they make sure that everyone knows 29,000 vinyl records sold their first week. Vinyl and more vinyl. Why is the CD not mentioned? Only one outlet covered the CD sales, Now Spinning Magazine in the UK, which gave an actual number of 148,471 copies in the first week and 4,205 copies on cassette. CDs outsold vinyl by a ridiculous amount. Why isn't that stated?
This is hard evidence of 'the music industry' trying to ignore the continued success of the CD format. The album had "the biggest opening week of any album in four years," That achievement has nothing to do with streaming; it's nothing to do with vinyl but has everything to do with the CD sales. Yet, the press release and follow-up articles say nothing about it. Quite frustrating, to say the least.
I have been campaigning for the relevance and resurgence of CDs for quite some time now. I want music listeners to realize that there is more to consuming music than just lossy streaming or the vinyl fad. This goes for Cassettes; Cassettes have seen an enormous jump in sales over the last couple of years. Artists like Abba, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, the Biebs, Selena Gomez, and Dua Lipa — have all released cassette tapes of their newest albums.
What's the sudden draw for physical media to re-enter the mainstream music scene?
The artists quickly realize that there is a massive cash grab that the music streaming services just aren't providing, and they and the record companies want to capitalize.
Cassette Tapes are now more widely available than they have been in decades and are now arriving in a higher-quality form as well. Recording The Master's manufacture bulk tape and blank cassettes that use a ferric oxide construction to rival the quality of now-extinct chromium dioxide tapes that defined the format's glory days. The company now produces 30,000 cassettes per month, up from just 9,000 per month in 2019. That's more than triple in just two years.
Where is the intrigue for dated physical media coming from?
Scott Register of ThinkIndie believes the cassette form has several levels of appeal. He told flood magazine, "For certain generations, it's nostalgia. For younger ones, everything old is new again, and there's a cool factor to it. And believe it or not, I know music fans who prefer the analog sound of these cassettes to other mediums."
I believe this same sentiment can be relatable to compact discs as well.
We are facing a problem though, even though there are many companies manufacturing Turntables and a select few focusing on CD players, the only source for tape players are crowdfunded projects, small Chinese manufacturers, and the used market. Aside from Tascam and Pyle, who make a rack-mountable version of the cassette deck, who will be the first company to manufacture a new high-quality cassette player? I am curious about who will start the revolution.
Just from studying the numbers, physical media is raging against the machine of music streaming services. Let's be honest here; these music streaming services have been hemorrhaging artists out of money for years now because they know they can. Now that the heavy hitters like Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish are choosing to release their albums on physical media could be the power play that the streaming services can't ignore and hopefully will respond to by paying out a lot more per stream.
The quality of streaming is scaling rapidly and is an incredibly convenient way to consume all types of media like music, podcasts, etc., and so forth. However, you don't own the music. You don't have the ceremony of flipping through a cd's booklet or a cassette's insert.
As Scott Register said, everything old is new again, which we need to carefully focus on.
What does this all mean for you, the consumer? Well, get off your ass and buy all the CDs and Cassettes you can find at your local thrift stores, record shops, eBay, and Discogs, because once this becomes a trend, the price will go up, and once this becomes as viral as the vinyl record resurgence, the price goes ballistic. We are in the infancy of resurrecting the Compact Disc and the cassette; a statement must be made in revenue. However, numbers don't lie, and the numbers are there. We are talking millions of dollars on the table, and it's only a matter of time before someone will grab for it first.
There has been a drop in music downloads of 26.8%, which if you think about it, would you rather pay for a download and own the digital copy, or buy the CD and have the opportunity of owning both formats?
I am curious what 2022 will hold for physical media since 2021 has become a paradigm shift for the platforms. Keeping fingers crossed and shopping carts full will more than guarantee its arrival, and the industry can't stop it. It should be embracing it.