TORONTO — Ten years ago, it would've been unthinkable that vinyl records could soften the decline of Canadian music sales, but a new industry roundup says renewed popularity in the physical discs did just that in 2021.
Sales tracker MRC Data reports 1.1 million vinyl records were sold in Canada last year, an increase of 21.7 per cent over 2020 when sales dipped amid COVID-19 and supply issues. The latest numbers topped the record of 1.03 million units sold in 2019.
The resurgence of the LP helped slow the continuing downturn of record sales across the country, which when accounting for both physical and digital sales, dropped 12.1 per cent to 6.1 million units last year.
MRC's annual roundup of the music industry highlights trends, streaming growth and overall album sales.
One of the bright points was a slight uptick in physical sales of 0.1 per cent to nearly 3.8 million units when factoring in vinyl, cassettes and compact discs.
But CDs continued to fall out of favour with listeners as sales dipped another 6.9 per cent to 2.7 million copies last year.
Canadian digital album sales were also weaker, falling 26.9 per cent to 2.3 million units while sales of single digital tracks dropped 25 per cent to 18.3 million.
Much of the slowdown can be attributed to an ongoing movement of listeners to streaming formats, which pay artists on a per-stream basis which generally means most earn less than from a physical album sale.
In global trends, the report issued Thursday said streaming music surpassed two billion weekly plays for the first time in 2021, but also pointed to what appeared to be an increasingly fragmented streaming audience.
Over the past two years, the most-popular songs were streamed fewer times than previous chart-toppers, and MRC suggests "with more users comes more distinct musical tastes" that can steer audiences into different genres and less popular artists.
For instance, the most-streamed global hit of 2021 was Dua Lipa's "Levitating," which drummed up 84.7 million on-demand plays. That compares to Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" which drew 128.6 million plays in 2019 and Drake's "God's Plan," which racked up 98.2 million in 2018.
Physical album sales have been dropping for years but saw a significant slide in 2020, plunging 42.7 per cent during the first year of the pandemic. Vinyl dipped 12.9 per cent that same year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2022.
David Friend, The Canadian Press