Music Industry

Here’s the final word on Canadian music sales and streaming for 2021

With the calendar flipping to a new year, it’s time to look back on what music Canadians bought and streamed in 2021. Here are the official year-end stats from MRC Data.

Total album sales are down by double digits

This is the sum total of all physical and digital albums sold in the country. Overall, things were down 12.1%. In 2021, we bought 6,077,623 albums, down from 6,911,375 in 2020. Ontario led the way with sales of 2,089,119 units (a drop of 15.0%). Manitoba saw the fewest sales with 185,355 units (-6.6%)

But hang on. What about TEAs?

TEA stands for Track Equivalent Albums, which is a semi-convoluted way of incorporating streaming in album sales. If tracks from a given album are streamed 1,500 times, that equals the sale of one album. That number for 2021 is up 9.2% (83,785,932 vs. 78,722,777 in 2020).

Digital albums are getting destroyed

These days, people would rather stream an album than buy it outright. Secondly, the whole concept of the album is being eclipsed by playlists. No wonder sales are down 26.9%. Sales in 2021 were 2,280,251 vs. 3,116,920 in 2020.

Digital tracks are also getting killed

I still buy a lot of individual songs through iTunes. But my purchases are for professional reasons (i.e. so I can play these songs on the radio). I’m obviously an outlier because sales of digital tracks dropped by 25.0% in 2021. (18,283,025 vs 24,370,467 in 2020).

CDs are going…going…

Sales were down 6.9%. To put it another way, Canadians bought just 2,684,006 new CDs 2021. Compare that to the 3,117,920 the year before.

Vinyl had another good year

Despite the supply chain issues, sales of vinyl were up 21.7% making this something like 13 straight years of double-digit growth. We bought 1,099,740 brand new slabs of vinyl (vs 903,310 the year before), making it the first time the million mark was eclipsed in like, forever. We probably would have bought even more had it not been for shortages and skyrocketing prices.

On-demand audio streaming keeps going up and up and up

Canadians streamed songs 99,554,760,098 times in 2021, an increased over the 88,388,611,527 we streamed in 2020. That’s up 12.6%.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38138 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “Here’s the final word on Canadian music sales and streaming for 2021

  • Thanks Alan
    So what was the revenue for the artist in Canada with the highest streaming hit?
    It would also be interesting to know the mean revenue for artists generating 1000, 5000 or 50,000 streams.
    In short-othjer than touring and selling socks with band logos on them how does a Canadian artist make any money?

    Thanks again for this information and I enjoyed your talk when you were in Paris (pre-Covid)

  • Another article that discounts the impact of CDs yet praises the impact of vinyl. Don’t get me wrong, I buy both but I still buy more CDs than vinyl, and while CDs sales are down and vinyl sales are up, note that of the 6,077,623 albums sold in Canada, 44.2% were CDs while 18.1% were vinyl. CD sales might be down, but they are still the overwhelming choice for those who buy albums.

  • I would love to know the answer to this as well. Every time I see a show I wonder what the financials look like. The band, the crew, mercy – how much money is paid per show. Then people streaming more than buying. Bands need to spend money to record, put out new stuff, do they have other jobs? Do they make enough to just be artists?


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