Music News

No City in the World Buys More CDs Than Phoenix, Allegedly

So, maybe the Spotify team went to Zia Records in Chandler?
Zia Records
So, maybe the Spotify team went to Zia Records in Chandler?

When Phoenix pops up in city rankings, it’s usually the heat that gets us top billing.

But a recent Spotify study that analyzed "millions of data points" came away with a somewhat surprising finding: People in Phoenix buy more CDs than anyplace else in the world.

Though he was taken aback by hearing that Phoenix occupied the number one spot, the information was not entirely surprising to Jarrett Hankinson, CEO and general manager of the local music chain Zia Records.

“People have said for years that CDs are dying, but they’re still flying off the shelves,” Hankinson tells Phoenix New Times.

CDs, Hankinson says, are a significant part of Zia’s business, comprising about 40 percent of its music sales at a time when CD sales overall have been declining for five to 10 years. “We do six figures in sales every month with preowned CDs,” he says.

click to enlarge Decision time at Zia Records in Tempe. - ZIA RECORDS
Decision time at Zia Records in Tempe.
Zia Records
So what CDs are selling best in Phoenix these days?

Hankinson says it's K-pop, especially music by the South Korean boy band BTS (or Bangtan Boys), because a lot of music in that genre isn’t available on vinyl. Other top sellers include ‘90s nostalgia, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alanis Morissette.

Taylor Swift makes the top five too, according to Zia’s Mary Papenhausen, who credits Swift’s team for sending autographed copies of her new releases to independent record stores around the country.

They’re seeing a similar K-pop trend with CDs at Bookmans in Phoenix, according to music supervisor Zach V. (who gave New Times an initial rather than his last name). “A lot of K-pop groups are putting out CD packages with books,” he says.

Bookmans doesn’t sell new CDs, but Zach says the demand for used CDs has been consistent for several years now. “We serve a large swath of the community that doesn’t have internet or access to music streaming.”

Why Phoenix tops this particular list is anyone’s guess.

“It kind of makes sense because we’re a big metropolis but still isolated,” Zach says. “Some people want to pretend we’re a rural, frontier town.” Bookmans still sells cassettes, but Zach suspects that people seeking a nostalgic music experience prefer CDs because they’re more durable.

Hankinson says a lot of people still want the physical experience of CDs, even as he acknowledges that “more and more record labels are considering not putting music out on CD anymore.”

And if you're curious: After Phoenix, the rankings for buying CDs go: 2. Los Angeles, 3. London, 4. Austin, 5. Chicago, 6. Houston, 7. San Diego, 8. Denver, 9. Paris, 10. Miami.