CDs shine as UK music sales in 2023 jump to near record | Music industry

CD sales rose last year for the first time in two decades, helping boost total UK spending on music to its highest level since the days when Destiny’s Child, Limp Bizkit and David Gray topped the album charts.

The value of all music sales – including the cost of streaming, vinyl, CDs and downloads – rose 9.6% in 2023 to reach £2.2bn, down just 0.08% from the record of 22 years earlier, according to the Digital Entertainment and Retail Association (ERA) ).

The top-selling album was The Weeknd’s The Highlights, although Taylor Swift’s albums dominated the market, while the best-performing song was Miley Cyrus’ Flowers.

CD sales rose 2%, driven by price inflation and the success of pricier exclusive albums being snapped up by music geeks, some of whom are opting for the still-relatively-cheap CD format over, or even vinyl.

Although the number of CDs sold continued to decline – by almost 7% – this marked a dramatic improvement from the 20% decline in 2022 and the lowest rate of decline since 2015.

CDs – which retail at around £10 or less per album, around half the price of a similar LP – are battling vinyl as the format favored by trendy students and middle-aged music fans.

“This is about collectors discovering CDs,” said ERA CEO Kim Bailey. “CDs are a digital format that you can keep forever, and that’s attractive when people subscribe to many different services. There are lots of exclusive items and souvenirs.”

She added that the number of CDs sold is expected to stabilize or possibly increase as more independent retailers begin to stock the format amid improved demand as young people join older fans of the format such as way to showcase their music collections.

Phil Halliday, managing director of the UK’s biggest music and entertainment retailer, HMV, said the chain had seen strong sales of deluxe collector’s albums for some time: “demand for that is kind of hot”. He said the retailer has also been surprised by teenage shoppers grabbing CDs this year and is increasingly catering to their tastes.

“They want something they can put on their shelf that says they like Joy Division or Nirvana, and they don’t want to spend what a record costs,” he said. “A CD has a lot of the same things as a vinyl album – like liner notes.”

Vinyl sales also benefited from demand for physical music formats, rebounding from a difficult year in 2022, rising 18% in value terms and almost 12% in volume last year.

However, sales of physical music formats remain very small compared to streaming, which saw sales rise 9.8% to £2.2bn last year, compared to a combined £311m for vinyl and CDs.

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