Music Industry

CD sales continue their death spiral in 2018. It’s not looking good and getting worse.

Rewind to 1999. Vinyl is all but dead. Predictions are that this might be the last year to buy a turntable. The CD had triumphed. No one ever expected vinyl to make any kind of comeback. It would eventually die out, slipping into extinction once the old collectors too faded away.

Now back to reality. A new report on US music consumption in the first half of 2018 shows that CD sales are dropping at a rate three times faster than the growth of vinyl.

The Recording Industry Association of America points to a dramatic drop in the sales of compact discs so far this year. Actually, the bottom has fallen out of the market.

From Music Business Worldwide:

In H1 2017, the US recorded music business saw $420m-worth of retail CD sales.

In H1 2018, this number slid to just $246m – down by a whopping 41.5%, or $174m.

Here’s why that’s particularly galling for those whose businesses rely on physical music: according to the RIAA’s 2016 and 2017 figures (which have since been slightly adjusted), revenues taken by CDs at retail fell by just 2.9%.

One year: a 2.9% fall in CD revenues. The next year: a 42% fall in CD revenues.

As for unit sales? Lovers of the compact disc, cover thine eyes.

In H1 2018, CD album unit sales in the United States were pretty much slashed in half – down from 35m to 18.6m. Ouch.

Read more here.

Another fact: streaming is responsible for 75% of the American music industry’s revenue. That means even though Spotify and almost all the other streaming services are still losing money, they are now too important to fail.

Graphic from Music Business Worldwide


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38031 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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