The Resurgence of Physical Music: Why Gen Z is Buying CDs in the Streaming Era

  • Posted on 23 October 2023

The Resurgence of Physical Music: Why Gen Z is Buying CDs in the Streaming Era

In an age dominated by streaming platforms and digital downloads, a rather unexpected trend is emerging among Generation Z, the generation born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s. Despite having grown up in the era of Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, a significant number of Gen Z individuals are opting to buy CDs. Why this return to physical music in the digital age? Let's explore this fascinating trend.

A Nostalgic Journey

While Gen Z is undoubtedly a tech-savvy generation, many of its members are finding appeal in the analogue world of CDs. For some, it's a nostalgic journey into a time when CDs were the primary medium for listening to music. The tactile experience of holding a physical disc and browsing through album booklets is a nostalgic pleasure that bridges the generational gap.

Tangible Ownership

In a world where most things are intangible, owning a physical CD provides a sense of tangible ownership. Owning a CD collection gives Gen Z a feeling of ownership and a physical manifestation of their music taste. There's something gratifying about curating a collection of albums on a shelf, much like previous generations curated vinyl or cassette collections.

Superior Sound Quality

Another reason for this trend is the perceived superior sound quality of CDs. Audiophiles often argue that the lossless audio quality of CDs surpasses the compressed files streamed online. Gen Z, despite their digital upbringing, is demonstrating a genuine appreciation for high-fidelity sound.

Supporting Artists

Gen Z is also known for its support of independent and niche artists. Buying a physical CD is seen as a more direct way to support musicians, especially when attending concerts and purchasing merchandise. It's a tangible expression of support, with a sense of connection between the fan and the artist.

CD Sales Statistics


  • A report by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) published in September 2023 provides greater clarity on sales data: “There were 11.6 million CDs and 5.5 million vinyl LPs purchased across the year, as well as 195,000 cassettes and 3.7 million album downloads.
  • While the profit from selling a CD may seem very small at first glance, it is significantly higher than the earnings for downloads or streams. Therefore, CDs are still an important source of income for musicians.

Aesthetic Appeal

For some Gen Z individuals, CDs have become a fashion statement and an aesthetic choice. Album artwork, packaging, and the physicality of CDs are appreciated as art in their own right. Displaying CDs in creative ways has become a form of self-expression.

Resisting Digital Overload

In an era where digital content can become overwhelming, the simplicity of popping a CD into a player and enjoying music without notifications, ads, or algorithms is a welcome escape for Gen Z. It's a way to regain control over the listening experience.

An Earth-Friendly Choice

Ironically, choosing CDs can also be viewed as an eco-friendly choice. Unlike vinyl, which relies on petroleum-based products, CDs are made from polycarbonate, a type of plastic that is easier to recycle. For environmentally conscious Gen Z individuals, this might be a contributing factor.

In conclusion, the trend of Gen Z purchasing CDs in the streaming age is a testament to the multi-dimensional nature of music appreciation. It combines nostalgia, audiophile tendencies, and a desire for tangible connections with music and artists. As the digital world continues to evolve, the return to physical music formats reminds us that there's room for both the future and the past in our musical journey.

As this trend continues to grow, it challenges our assumptions about generational preferences and highlights the enduring value of the physical music experience.


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