“substantial CD collection was once the mark of the true muso, with the format hailed for its superior sound quality and, of course, compactness. But many collections now sit gathering dust since the ascent of streaming”

Sourced from: The Guardian

It’s well known that physical CD’s are on a brutal collisional course, and with word that music retail store HMV had a bad Christmas, it’s a real shame that we could soon start to see the beginning of the end for one of music’s most familiar distribution formats. The graph below supplied by IFPI Global music report 2018 and published in The Guardian shows this was nothing to not be expected, a pacy but steady fall of physical sales has been occurring since just after 2000. This is somewhat surprising to those who view streaming as something of a new phenomenon but it would seem a rise in online piracy also gave the industry a beating over the years.

Sourced from: The Guardian

Sourced from: The Guardian

While things seemed to have slowed down over the last couple of years we can now see that streaming has taken over as the primary revenue for the industry. Question is, is it out of the question to rule a comeback of physical sales in the future?

The indie music world would disagree, with the online retail store “Bandcamp reported 18% year-over-year growth in CD sales for 2017” a surprising contrast to the overall picture which seems to be going the other way. The youth of today who are more attracted to these indie bands now more than ever seem to enjoy owning a physical copy of their artist’s CD rather than streaming it. This can be seen through high-street clothing store Urban Outfitters selling vinyl LP’s and tapes in its stores. There seems to be a nostalgia growing among today’s youth about owning your own album. A nostalgia exists perhaps because this a nostalgia they never had, with most of them growing up with the rise of the digital market.

In fact, a YouGov research poll showed “close to two thirds of (64%) current users and purchasers expect to be using CDs in five years’ time” suggesting those that are continuing to buy CD’s today even in the face of the streaming movement have no plans to stop. Thing is, is this practical for the majority? You wouldn’t expect to find a single song on a physical CD as it just isn’t needed. You’d have to wait until the artists released an album with the specific song on and that’s if an album even gets released…

This ‘hipster’ movement about reconnecting with the past could be exactly what physical CD’s need in order to survive. The vinyl market continues to grow year on year, especially on resale sites such as eBay meaning this movement could be bigger than anyone can calculate, with customers looking to these sites where they might find something ‘rare’ or ‘limited edition’ rather than going to the shops who are only reproducing the classic’s and newer music in vinyl format. On the other hand, CD’s continue to fall “three times faster than vinyl is growing” suggesting a total turn around is unlikely and once vinyl too goes out of fashion it could well be the end of the line for this family (sad face).

The rocky road of streaming is ever-changing and unpredictable so it would be silly to completely write off CD’s, digital isn’t always better we can all agree but the prognosis isn’t good. The only thing we do know is that all hope of a comeback lies with the younger generation, will this vinyl phase just be a fad? They’re definitely more expensive than streaming or even just a CD, and maybe rather more of a collector’s/fan type item. It’s also true to say not every musical album out there is available in vinyl. With more of an expensive production value than CD’s, producers are only going to create a vinyl edition if there is the demand.

As stated by my interviewee last week; “streaming is definitely the way forward” and I’d conclude that as streaming continues to become more popular and the newer generations take to it, we will most likely see a total shift in the way the world listens to music. For example, while album sales are still popular with the older generations, once this young generation becomes older we will see demand for CD’s fall into obscurity. The future is most definitely uncertain for this type of physical distribution of music, bleak in truth. However, weirder things have happened in music and I think we’ll have just have to wait and see…