Let's get physical: new BPI report shows vinyl & cassettes sales surge, decline of the CD slows

Let's get physical: new BPI report shows vinyl & cassettes sales surge, decline of the CD slows

While full-year 2021 music consumption figures – which will include 2021’s streaming data – will be released on January 4, 2022, the BPI has today (December 29) given a glimpse into some key trends. 

In a new report – in conjunction with Official Charts Company data – the BPI has revealed that purchases of vinyl LPs and audio cassettes in 2021 continued their surge of recent years. Read on for a breakdown of the key points...

The vinyl frontier

According to the BPI, vinyl purchases reached their highest level in over three decades this year, with over 5 million LPs already purchased over the past 12 months. This represents a jump of 8% or higher on 2020 and a 14th consecutive year of growth since the format’s low point in 2007.

The report also stated that vinyl will have accounted "for nearly a quarter of 2021 album purchases" (predicted to be 23%) – this is estimated to be at its highest level since 1990. 

The BPI also noted that more than 100 album titles sold over 5,000 copies on vinyl LP in 2021 (with many selling over 2,000 copies in week of release). Meanwhile, more than 900 titles sold over 1,000 copies on LP. The title with the biggest first-week sales was ABBA’s Voyage (29,891) – the fastest seller on vinyl this century according to Official Charts Company data.

The report predicts that the year’s best sellers will include Back To Black by Amy Winehouse (reissued to coincide with National Album Day) and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, plus major 2021 releases including ABBA’s Voyage, Adele’s 30, Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under, Ed Sheeran’s = and Wolf Alice’s Blue Weekend.

Speaking about the vinyl growth, Geoff Taylor, chief executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: “It’s a great time to be a music fan, with wider choice on offer than ever before supported by great value. Thanks to record label investment into new music and talent, fans can purchase and collect the music they most love on vinyl, CD and even cassette, whilst also enjoying access to over 70 million songs to stream instantly whenever and how often they want, in turn enabling a new generation of artists to create music and sustain successful careers in a global market.” 

Discworld: rate of decline in CD slows

The BPI has also revealed that – boosted by ABBA, Adele & Ed Sheeran album releases – over 14 million CDs were purchased in 2021, representing a predicted 12% drop.

With that marking the lowest drop in three years, the report states the data “suggests that reducing demand for the format, which is nearing its 40th anniversary, may be bottoming out thanks to a core group of baby-boomer and newer fans that remain committed to the audio format.”  

Nine lives: cassette revival sees 9th year of consecutive growth

In other promising news for physical media, the BPI reported that nearly 200,000 cassettes were sold, with Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together, Lana Del Rey’s Chemtrails Over The Country Club, Queen’s Greatest Hits and Coldplay’s Music Of The Spheres among the most popular titles released on cassette in 2021.

The figure represents a 20% predicted rise on 2020’s numbers and the highest amount since 2003, when 243,000 tapes were sold and NOW 54 was the year’s biggest seller on the format.  

The key to a No.1 album? 

Taking in all of the data, the BPI’s report suggests that “more often than not”, having an album available on physical formats plays a pivotal role in artists being able to achieve No.1 albums in the Official Albums Chart.  

To date in 2021, in 40 of the 52 weeks of the year the album that topped the Charts did so thanks to combined CD, vinyl and cassette purchases accounting for over half the album’s consumption in the week that it got to No.1. The report stated that the trend was exemplified by Adele’s album 30, which in its first five weeks of release saw 75% of its chart sales attributable to physical format purchases.

Overall, over 240 album titles were purchased more than 10,000 times during the past year across all physical formats (vinyl, CD and cassette).

Speaking about the importance of physical music, Drew Hill, MD Proper Music Distribution, said: “It’s been an incredible year for CDs, vinyl and cassettes as they continued to drive albums up the charts. This year, nearly 90% of unique No.1 albums hit the top spot off the back of a physical sales majority, with some hugely impressive numbers from the likes of Adele, whose new album maintained its chart lead with an increasing physical majority share, and ABBA, who claimed the title of fastest-selling vinyl of the century. It’s further proof that in this golden era of choice, music fans really cherish an album they can hold!"

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