When I opened the weekly report from Luminate, the company that keeps track of the recorded music industry, I thought there was a glaring error. But there it was on the screen: Canadian CD sales were up this week. And not by just a little. Not 5 or 10 or ever 20 percent. Compact disc sales rocketed up in one week by an unbelievable 87 percent.
I rubbed my eyes and checked the numbers again. Nope. I read that right. An 86.6% increase in the number of CDs sold in Canada over the last seven days. What’s going on?
Better look for backup, I thought. Maybe this is some kind of weird statistical glitch.
I checked the US numbers and found that America is also seeing a CD renaissance. In 2021, compact disc sales were 47.7% higher than they were in 2020. That was the first time in two decades that CDs saw a year-over-year increase in sales. What’s going on? (And no, we can’t credit Kate Bush for all this.)
The answer may lay in the ongoing vinyl shortage, supply chain issues, and the bottlenecks at record pressing plants.
If you’ve been to a record store lately, you’ll know that the prices for LPs are outrageous. Earlier this year, I ran across a copy of the Tragically Hip’s Music At Work album selling for $70. Insane. The same album could be purchased on CD for less than $20. If you have to own a physical version of an album right now, which format are you going to pick? I thought so.
Digging a little deeper, I see that it’s possible to order a run of 100 CDs in full-colour jackets for anywhere from $2-5 per disc. Compare that to the $20-25 (and often much more) it costs to order vinyl in that same quantity. Yes, production costs drop as your order gets bigger, but there’s no way that the cost of producing a vinyl record will ever become as cheap as producing a CD.
Keep in mind, too, that we’re only seeing figures for CDs sold at stores using the SoundScan system. Any numbers do not include used discs or those people will buy at the merch table after a show.
Anyone else have any other theories as to why CD sales are heading up so fast?