In a time where streaming music dominates our society, there is, what may seem to be, a small minority that still buy Compact Discs (CDs).With sales decreasing year after year, InterMusic is here to take a look at the arguments of both sides. Is the Compact Disc about to be thrown in the dustbin of history? Or is it here to stay for years to come?

What Are Compact Discs Doing Now?

InterMusic has spoken about the history of the compact disc previously, but we haven’t looked at what is going on with CDs since their inception. Brigid Delaney, from The Guardian, has stated that “If CDs had a decade, it was in the 1990s… the brief golden era of CDs before Napster and downloading, and devices such as smartphones and iPods changed everything“. Delaney is very one-sided in her article. With the article being titled “Digital killed the CD“, the confirmation that she believes the Compact Disc is dead is immediately recognised. She even goes as far as saying that “no one loves CDs” – gone and forgotten in by the looks of Delaney’s opinion.

In terms of financial success, Compact Discs are falling further and further each year. Mark Sweney, from The Guardian, provides the financial details of music revenue from 2017. He found that “revenue from music fans paying for services such as Spotify surged more than 41% to $6.6bn (£4.7bn), accounting for more than 38% of the total global market for recorded music while the sale of physical formats, primarily CDs, fell 5.4% to $5.2bn to account for 30%“. With streaming taking over as the dominant leader of the global market for recorded music revenue, Compact Discs have seen a massive decline in the industry.

An image of cd cases

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Saying Goodbye to Compact Discs?

Steve Knopper, from Rolling Stone, stated in 2018 that “CD sales have fallen 80 percent in the past decade, from roughly 450 million to 89 million”. This decline in sales demonstrates that there are no where near as many people purchasing Compact Discs today; an implication that they are a thing of the past? John Kunz, owner of Waterloo Records, seems to think so. Kunz said that “after 30 years of CDs, a lot of people are moving on from [CDs]. Whether they’re going back to vinyl, or streaming, people are selling off those CDs“.

A piece of evidence that Compact Discs are fading away comes in the form of car manufacturing. Knopper acknowledged that “since Tesla began manufacturing cars without CD players, other companies like Ford and Toyota have recently followed“. Following this, Annie Zaleski from Salon also talked about car manufacturing as a factor for dying CDs: “the 2018 Ford EcoSport doesn’t have a CD player, only streaming capabilities“. This was followed by a quote from Michael O’Brien, the SUV Marketing Manager for Ford, who said “streaming is the fastest growing source of music… particularly with younger consumers, who we’ve found time and time again prefer streaming and subscription services over traditional forms like CDs“. Therefore, with car manufacturing recording what people do and enjoy, some manufacturers have stopped making CD players for cars altogether. Is this a sign of what else is to come?

The Death of the Compact Disc?

Many people have written about the death of the Compact Disc in their articles. Amy X.Wang, from Rolling Stone, suggested that “the compact disc has been on its deathbed for a while“; using “deathbed” to emphasise the supposed dying of the CD. Alternatively, Bobby Owsinski, from Forbes, stated that “the CD has been written off as a relic of the past“; with the word “relic” implying the Compact Disc is an item of history. However, is it really the end for Compact Discs? Or is it the beginning of something new for the age of the CD?

An image of disregarded CDs

Maciej Bliziński from Dublin, Ireland [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A New Age?

While some are referring to the death of the Compact Disc, others are suggesting that they are, in fact, evolving. Owsinski, from Forbes, has stated that “there’s still a place for CDs in the music industry” with the industry moving forward. Owsinski also has a suggestion for this. He says that “it may end up being a niche like vinyl” as “there will always be at least some consumers who prefer the format“. In a similar notion to vinyls, will Compact Discs follow the same pattern? Similarly, Zaleski had said that “Compact Discs will still have their place in a music collection”. However, this will only be if “people give them a shot at survival”. If they are not given any attention, then they’re not going to survive in the industry of music distribution.

An image of a music shop

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In conclusion, the future of the Compact Disc is an unclear spectrum. Whether they are being thrown into the dustbin of history or are being preserved for a resurrection in the future, people are uncertain. With sales declining, it looks like the future is unstable for CDs. But with the resurgence of vinyl, there is uncertainty in the rise or decline of Compact Discs. What do you think is the future for the Compact Disc?