Is the CD Really Dead?

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When was the last time you listened to music through a CD player or bought a vinyl record? Chances are, it has been a very long time since you listened to a physical copy of music from your favorite band. In fact, many music and technology shops such as Best Buy have discontinued their CD sales in recent years. With the digital age in full effect, the music industry has shifted dramatically in favor of streaming and online downloads. In fact, between 2015 and 2019, streaming revenue increased by approximately 50%, indicating an increased use of streaming services and platforms. However, while the numbers prove that streaming is the most popular method of consuming music, there is still a thriving market for CDs and vinyls. Artists such as Taylor Swift and Post Malone still make a large amount of profit through CD sales, which has encouraged industry professionals to rethink how they distribute their music. This begs the question: is the CD really dead?

The ultimate answer is no, the CD is not dead. While streaming has grown in popularity, there is still a market for physical copies of music such as CD’s, vinyls, and cassette tapes. Streaming is seen as a fast and cost efficient way to listen to music because streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Napster provide users with a large library of music that they can access for free. However, most streaming services limit the amount of freedom their free users have when listening to music through advertisements and limited skips. If a user were to eliminate these aspects, they would then have to purchase a paid subscription, relinquishing the main perk of these platforms. Due to these inconveniences, some music consumers would rather own the music they consume than simply having access to it. Therefore, they do not have to relinquish control over what they are listening to and can enjoy a full album without interruptions. Thus, the market for CD’s and vinyl still thrives in the music industry.

In addition, CD’s and vinyl have come back into style due to its aesthetic purposes. Many artists have taken to providing extra content into their CD packages such as photo cards or booklets. This is a common practice in the Asian music industry (which is unique for its ability to maintain a coexistence between digital and physical music) that has started to bleed into the American music industry. In fact, when Taylor Swift released her newest album Lover , she included collectible photocards that enticed her fans to purchase the album package, thus increasing her physical album sales. These extra additions to the CD album have revived the appeal of collecting CD’s as the fans get more exclusive content that can only be obtained by purchasing a physical copy.

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Collecting vinyls and cassettes has become more mainstream as many people take pride in having an extensive collection of music. Pictures of modern record players and cassette players have circulated around social media platforms, starting internet trends that emulate 90’s and vintage styles. Thus, more people are turning to “old-school” methods of listening to music to follow the trends and appreciate the aesthetic of collecting vinyl and cassette tapes. In addition, these internet trends have caused more mainstream stores to sell vinyl, cassettes and players. Rather than having to go to an independent record store to purchase a vinyl, people can go to an Urban Outfitters in their local mall and shop their collection of records. As vintage internet trends popularize the vinyls and cassettes, the aesthetic appeal of these products have fueled the market for physical copies of music.

Overall, the music industry has made a dramatic shift to digital music as a variety of streaming platforms gain more users. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that the CD is dead as there is evidently a thriving market for CD’s and vinyl. The drawbacks of free streaming drive some people to buy their music rather than simply access it for free. As artists make their physical albums more marketable, and internet trends influence consumers to gravitate towards vintage styles of listening to music, the market for physical copies of music expands. As streaming and download revenue increases, there will always be a group of people who prefer to stick to the classic method of music consumption.