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Adele Helped Reverse 17-Year Decline in CD Sales

With help from Taylor Swift and BTS

adele cd sales 17 year high 2021
Adele, photo courtesy of the artist
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    After 17 years of declining numbers, CD sales reached a nearly two-decade high in 2021, and the biggest reason was Adele.

    The superstar’s long-awaited fourth album, 30, was far and away the top-selling album of the year in every format, a feat she managed to achieve within just 72 hours of the smash LP’s release.

    In CD sales alone, it moved a total of 898,000 units — a massive amount for a release in the post-streaming age of music consumption. According to Billboard, that accounts for two percent of all sales in the format, and “had 30 not been released in 2021, total CD sales would have been down year-over-year.”

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    With Adele’s help, 2021 marked the very first time since 2004 that CD sales rose. For reference, that was the year when Usher’s Confessions dominated the industry by selling approximately 7,979,000 copies — a feat largely unimaginable by today’s standards.

    Also helping buck the years-long downward trend were major acts like Taylor Swift and BTS. Swift alone had three albums released on CD throughout 2021, with 2020’s evermore selling 213,000 physical copies, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) moving 263,000, and Red (Taylor’s Version) at 237,000 and counting. For those doing the math at home, that’s a grand total of 713,000 compact discs across the three projects.

    And the K-pop boy band even outpaced Taylor, having sold 1.03 million CDs between 2020’s Map of the Soul: 7 and Be. Of course, it helps that  BTS has yet to offer any of their albums on vinyl — besides a limited edition 12″ printing of Be. Combined, BTS, Taylor Swift, and Adele accounted for over seven percent of all CDs sold.

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    The popularity of Adele’s latest album also contributed to a global vinyl shortage and delays in production around the country. Her dominance seems likely to continue into the new year as she prepares for her upcoming Sin City residency, “Weekends with Adele,” at the Colosseum of Las Vegas inside Caesars Palace. Tickets are available here.

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