Vinyl and cassette UK sales continue to surge to 30 year high as CD sales decline slows

BPI figures show that vinyl sales topped 5 million in 2021.

New figures to be released by record labels’ association the BPI using Official Charts Company data will show that purchases of vinyl LPs and audio cassettes in 2021 continued their surge of recent years.

Vinyl purchases are now at their highest in 3 decades - over 5 million LPs have already been purchased over the past 12 months – a jump of 8% or higher on 2020 and a 14th consecutive year of growth since the format’s low point in 2007.  Vinyl will have accounted for nearly a quarter of 2021 album purchases (predicted 23%), estimated to be at its highest level since 1990, when Phil Collins’ But Seriously was the biggest selling title. 

More than 100 album titles sold over 5,000 copies on vinyl LP in 2021 (a great many selling over 2,000 copies in week of release), while 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.

Among the albums expected to be announced as the year’s best sellers by the Official Charts are classic LPs by iconic artists such as Back To Black by Amy Winehouse (reissued to coincide with National Album Day to mark its 15th anniversary) and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac as well as 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.


Picture: Simon Emmett

MORE: The Official Top 40 biggest vinyl releases of 2021

Vinyl sales powered through 2021 via a hybrid of high street and online sales, as independent stores and specialist chains such as HMV again stepped up their offer in a challenging retail environment, supported by events such as National Album Day, Record Store Day, The Record Club and Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties.   

Sales of CDs have steadily declining for around 17 years now - thanks at first to the introduction digital downloads, and then streaming services. But that may be changing, if ever so slightly.

The drop-off in CD sales has reduced from 27% annually between 2018 – 2020 to just a predicted -12% in 2021, with sales boosted by CD-friendly releases from superstar artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran and ABBA. 

This 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.  


Picture: Baillie Walsh

MORE: Official Top 40 biggest albums of 2021 so far

The revival of cassette sales continues its steady growth for a ninth consecutive year.

Though still just a fraction of overall UK recorded music consumption, and often released in limited edition format, cassettes now come as standard on many album releases. Final figures for 2021 are likely to show that around 190,000 tapes were purchased in the past 12 months – up by around a fifth (20%) on the year and the highest amount since 2003, when 243,000 tapes were sold and Now 54 was the year’s biggest seller on the format.  This marks a ninth year of consecutive growth for the format, which is finding a new market among music enthusiasts of all ages who value its retro, collectable appeal.

Among the most popular titles released on cassette in 2021 were Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, Dave’s We’re All Alone In This Together and Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres.

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.  In 2021 to date 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 – a trend 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).