Data: 2021 Total Music Sales and Streams

The big news from MRC’s 2021 year-end report (if you’re a dork like me) is that vinyl finally surpassed compact discs as the most-sold physical format for the first time in the Soundscan era (i.e., since 1991). Still though, people bought over forty million CDs — nuts!

Also, total album sales (physical + digital) actually went up a little bit for the first time since a little blurp in 2011. Other than that it had been all downhill since 2000. Probably has a lot to do with Adele, whose 30 sold 1,464,000, and to Taylor Swift, whose four most recent albums sold a total of 1,975,000 in 2021. Out of Adele’s 1,464,000 album sales, 1,219,000 were physical copies and 318,000 of those were vinyl.

Swift sold 260,000 copies of her new version of Red on double vinyl at $50 a pop. That’s a gross of $13 million.

Personally, I just can’t bring myself to pay $50 for a record. I felt silly spending $30 on folklore. Then again, I’m totally paying $37.64 (including tax and shipping) to get my favorite album of 2019 (Hallelujah The Hills’ I’m You) on vinyl via a special program from Bandcamp where if 250 people pre-order, they press the vinyl for you. I’m excited about that.

I think of physical media these days almost like a “fan club favor,” as Bill Wyman put it. Wyman also pointed out, surprisingly to me, that after adjusting for inflation the “~$25 or so a dumb kid might pay for Rumours at Walmart today is about the same as what this dumb kid paid for it in 1977.” Who knew!

Maybe I’m a cheapskate (fact check: I’m definitely a cheapskate) but I miss being able to buy good used records in near mint condition for $4.99. Then again, back in the 90s you could find vintage Herman Miller furniture at thrift stores and garage sales. In fact, one summer I pulled both an Eames shell chair and a Marantz receiver off the curb on garbage day. Times change.

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2021: 109.0 million
2020: 102.4 million
2019: 112.75 million
2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Vinyl albums

Vinyl Album Sales (in millions)

2021: 41.7 million
2020: 27.54 million
2019: 18.84 million
2018: 16.8 million
2017: 14.32 million
2016: 13.1 million
2015: 11.92 million
2014: 9.19 million
2013: 6.1 million
2012: 4.55 million
2011: 3.9 million
2010: 2.8 million
2009: 2.5 million
2008: 1,877,000
2007: 990,000
2006: 858,000
2005: 857,000
2004: 1,187,000
2003: 1,404,000
2002: 1,339,000
2001: 1,246,000
2000: 1,533,000
1999: 1,405,000
1998: 1,376,000
1997: 1,092,000
1996: 1,145,000
1995: 794,000
1994: 625,000

Compact Discs

Compact Disc Sales (in millions)

2021: 40.6 million
2020: 40.12 million
2019: 54.19 million
2018: 70.7 million
2017: 88.2 million
2016: 104.8 million
2015: 125.6 million
2014: 140.9 million
2013: 165.4 million
2012: 193.4 million
2011: 223.5 million
2010: 239.9 million
2009: 294.9 million
2008: 360.6 million
2007: 449.2 million
2006: 553.4 million
2005: 598.9 million
2004: 651.1 million
2003: 635.8 million
2002: 649.5 million
2001: 712.0 million
2000: 730.0 million
1999: 648.1 million
1998: ~578 million
1997: 504.6 million
1996: 448.4 million
1995: 368 million

Digital Albums

Digital Album Sales (in millions)

2021: 26.2 million
2020: 34.39 million
2019: 39.3 million
2018: 53.4 million
2017: 66.2 million
2016: 82.3 million
2015: 103.33 million
2014: 106.47 million
2013: 117.58 million
2012: 117.68 million
2011: 103.1 million
2010: 86.3 million
2009: 76.4 million
2008: 65.8 million
2007: 50 million
2006: 32.6 million
2005: 16.2 million
2004: 5.5 million

Cassette albums

Cassette Sales (in millions)

2021:
2020:
2019:
2018: 219,000
2017: 174,000 source
2016: 129,000 source
2015: 74,000 source
2014:
2013:
2012:
2011: 31,000
2010: 21,000
2009: 34,000
2008: ~82,000 source
2007: 274,000
2006: ~1.128 million source
2005: ~2.667 million source
2004: 8.6 million
2003: 17.9 million
2002: 29.8 million
2001: 49.4 million
2000: 77.2 million
1999: 105.5 million
1998: ~130.8 million
1997: 146 million
1996: 166.7 million

Digital track sales

Digital Track Sales (in millions)

2021: 202.9 million
2020: 233.84 million
2019: 301.08 million
2018: 412 million
2017: 554.82 million
2016: 724.0 million
2015: 964.76 million
2014: 1.1 billion
2013: 1.26 billion
2012: 1.336 billion
2011: 1.27 billion
2010: 1.17 billion
2009: 1.16 billion
2008: 1.07 billion
2007: 844.1 million
2006: 582 million
2005: 352.7 million
2004: 142.6 million
2003: 19.2 million (SoundScan monitored them only during the year’s second half)

Song Streams (audio and video) *

Song Streams (in billions)

2021: 1.13 trillion (988.1 billion were audio-only)
2020: 1.02 trillion (872.59 billion were audio-only)
2019: 1.147 trillion (745.75 billion were audio-only)
2018: 901 billion (611 billion were audio-only)
2017: 618.03 billion (400.38 billion were audio-only)
2016: 432.2 billion (252.3 billion were audio-only)
2015: 317.2 billion (144.9 billion were audio-only)
2014: 164.5 billion
2013: 118.1 billion
2012: ~89.5 billion (calculated on reports that 2013 was up 32%)

* Due to reporting methodology changes from a major video provider in 2020, year over year video streaming comparisons may not be reflective of industry trends, according to Billboard. Also, non-interactive digital services like Pandora and Sirius XM are not included in the streams tracked by Nielsen Music.

Sources: 2021 (MRC, Billboard); 2020 (overview, more, vinyl); 2019 (streams, pdf, vinyl, overview), 2018 (overview, vinyl, cassettes), 2017 (overview, vinyl, consumption, streams, sales, Nielsen), Billboard, Business Wire, Billboard, New York Times, Billboard, Billboard, Nielsen Music, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, USA Today, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, USA Today, Computer World, New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, CTV, BBC, WSJ, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Billboard, Pitchfork, Narm, Billboard.

We’ve been doing this for a while. See our previous annual sales wrap-ups: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

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