Music Industry

The CD: STILL Not Dead

It’s been awhile–Six months? Longer?–since I bought a regular CD. If I need to possess music, I’ll head over to iTunes or HD Tracks and buy a download. The rest of the time I’ll just use Rdio or something similar.

This is a big confession from a guy who has a collection of more than 10,000 discs. I’ve even asked–pleaded!–for people to stop sending me free CDs.  (Box sets, special re-issues and vinyl are three other matters and for another time. That sort of collecting is costing me plenty. Again.)

Maybe you’ve abandoned CDs, too, and consider the format to be completely dead. However, you’d be wrong. From Forbes:

All of the music industry news for the last year or so has been directed at oncoming music streaming steamroller and the downfall of the music download, but what’s interesting is that our good old physical CD still remains a huge part of the music business. The latest report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the music industry’s trade group, shows the 2014 sales of the bright and shiny disc at $1.85 billion, or about 27% of the total U.S. recorded music revenue.

There’s no denying that CDs are on the way out, with unit sales falling another 16% in 2014 from the previous year. It’s true that it’s just a matter of time before the format goes the way of the vinyl record (although there’s been a recent resurgence), the 8 track tape and the cassette. What’s interesting is that the 144.1 million CDs officially reported as sold by the RIAA in 2014 doesn’t represent the real total by a long shot.

Continue reading.


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 38291 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

7 thoughts on “The CD: STILL Not Dead

  • I continue to love CDs, and I buy between 3-5 new per year. As well, I probably buy about 100 a year at thrift stores, as short-sighted people are unloading them.

    I believe 100% that CDs will make a comeback. You can only convince people to pay for digital music that they only get to rent for so long. At some point nostalgia will kick in and people will regret giving up a versatile, portable format. Meanwhile, I’ll happily pay 2-3 dollars apiece for CDs that used to sell for 20+ dollars each.

    I come from a music-loving family and part of what we love is the tactile experience of the artwork and packaging, and CDs offer a tremendous amount of options that a handful of digital files simply can’t compete against.

    As well, CDs are still the most cost-effective format for independent bands to get their music out. An investment of a few high-speed burners, a good quality printer and a shrink-wrap machine and you’ve got your album for sale at gigs.

  • I like having the option of physical media–be it CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, etc. Sometimes owning something physical is great. What if you need someone to autograph their album? You can’t do that with an MP3/whatever.

  • I continue to grab CDs, usually at WalMart, where you can get a lot of the old ones for $5. I can’t imagine where you store 10K of them, Alan; my just over 1000 takes nearly half of a bedroom wall. It is nice to pick up old music that you never had the priority to purchase when it came out. Plus, I have stored every single cd I own into the Windows Media Center, which I think sounds better than an MP3, especially as I have the Bose computer speakers. Amazon is a great place too, where you can link with stores trying to unload stock.

  • I still buy CDs. I am NEVER giving up on them.

    It’s a shame most people do not exploit it’s sonic potential & besides you can’t sell a download.

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  • I still buy CDs, when they are down in price. The latest artists still sell between $8-12 per album on amazon. I don’t believe they will ever reach the same level of collectability compared to vinyl simply because of the limited space for artwork, which was one of it’s major draws. Only time will tell if the cd truly disappears. I suspect it might simply turn into a niche market with few select artists creating CDs alongside vinyl.

    I would never buy digital format. It just does not appeal. Having nothing you truly own is one factor. If a digital store disappears, has issues with certain content of yours online, or your hard drive dies, then your purchases are truly gone. You have an additional problem if it’s copyright protected. Last year the RIAA made backup copies of mp3s, and format switching your own CDs to MP3 was now illegal. You can’t sell it compared to a disc, and none of it will will be a collector’s item in future. I can however listen to entire albums on streaming services such as spotify (and rather dubiously, youtube) already in digital form, so I feel no need to own. I do not listen to music on a phone so I am not missing out.

    Online stores asking for near identical prices to a physical CD per track is the killer. For a lesser quality format, it just isn’t appealing. In my opinion digital music should be a tenth of what they sell for now. The stores are unfortunately competing with a share-happy internet where even lossless formats are online, but the major sellers are largely unwilling to switch from MP3 or M4A. If lossless files were the same price as MP3’s or M4A now, I would be more understanding. No one should still have to pay $1-£1 or 1EU for one single MP3. Easy availability or sell at the touch of a button is simply not enough. No costs for packaging, delivery-nothing, yet they sell for high cost due to the popularity of phone downloads. Advertising alone likely makes up for any server or computer related costs.

  • I still buy CDs – how else am I going to showcase my great musical taste to my guests?


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