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Are CDs Dead or Just Evolving?

On July 1, 2018, Best Buy made the announcement that they were going to stop selling CDs and Target quickly followed suit by shifting to a retail on consignment model. We’ve all been hearing that CD sales are on the decline. Makes sense with so many other options like digital and streaming media. But don’t discount CDs just yet. Here’s why.

It’s true that CD sales have been on a steady decline ($13 billion in 2000 compared to $1.2 billion in 2016), however, CD sales made up 51% of full album sales in 2017. That’s a big market. And although there has been a big push for the comeback of vinyl, it only makes up 8.5% of sales. Sure, vinyl is cool and nostalgic and may help increase merch sales a bit, but when you look at the numbers, it’s not really a factor in the larger picture.

But here is the real reason artists, especially indie artists, should continue to create and sell CDs. Music fans like having a tangible piece of music to listen to on their way home from a show. CDs are the only mainstream physical music format that is both cost effective and has the most pristine quality. And with the improvements in CD print technology, they are much cheaper to print than in previous years, making it a very affordable option for Indie artists.

There is no doubt that as the availability of CD players become as elusive as vinyl record players, CDs themselves may well fall into the “vintage” category, but industry experts don’t think that is going to happen for another 5-10 years.

All that being said, music fans don’t just get their music from one spot. Digital download sales are about on par with CD sales, but streaming has been exploding. If you’re an established or emerging artist, having your music on Apple Music or Spotify, along with digital downloads and CDs will help make sure you cover all kinds of markets and get your music into the hands of as many fans as possible.

And if you're a fan, do the band a favor and grab one of their CDs. They'll appreciate the support and you'll have a great souvenir of your experience.

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