Fast Company

No More CDs, Says Sony

What the hell are CDs again?

Sony Discman

Remember those shiny circular things that could barely hold twenty songs?

Well apparently record labels are still using the prehistoric technology, but not for much longer. Sony Music delivered what some consider a knockout blow to CDs, announcing recently that on May 1, it will cease sending promo CDs to critics and journalists, and instead only provide them with digital previews. Sony is the second-largest music company in the world, and the first major label to do digital-only promotions--hopefully it's not the last.

This is only a toe-in-the-water attempt at ending all CD production for good, but it's still a good indicator of where the industry is eventually heading.

Over the last decade, overall CD sales have plummeted 48% in the U.S., declining steadily almost every year. Meanwhile, digital sales continue to rise, growing 27% in 2008 and 8.3% in 2009. Digital downloads now represent 40% of all music purchases. What's wrong with major labels, right? The business model seems obvious: Go digital.

Unfortunately, CDs are far from finished. Why? Because digital revenue has failed to compensate for declining CD sales, and more importantly, compact-discs still account for 80% of all album purchases--the labels' bread and butter.

So it'll likely be a while before we're 100% digital, but Sony's move will definitely encourage other labels to follow suit with promos.

My question is: Who is still buying CDs for music? Does anyone still carry around a Discman?

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6 Comments

  • Nana

    You know the problem I'm having with this whole digital thing is that most people "abuse" it to buy songs seperately. CD Albums you buy and then start listening through them. That way you don't just hear those one-hit-wonder songs that are being blurred from the stereo, but also the other songs by that artist. The biggest problem though is that thing called "C-L-O-U-D". What happens if the network collapses? Then you don't have your little circular plastic ready to go!

  • E_rockson78

    usually i been on business for video rental's and also disc sales such as cd albums. yes it affect the digital uploads from enternet but to tell you folks if you really a collector to video and music i prepare more on cds than those uploads most uploads theyre just good at start but at the middle some are stupids or most of it... or maybe just some people want to save theyre money so they prepare those bootleg or some crappy site>

  • Nicholas Kenny

    What are you talking about? CDs are a great format - I still buy them all the time and my experience is that most people who are into music in a big way do also. I don't mind downloads, but consider them worthwhile only as a taster for the real thing - a physical album with a disc and a booklet. The only bizarre thing about this story is that any record company would want to phase out CDs in favour of a new format which, despite a decade of media hype, still only takes up 40% of all purchases.

  • Micah Solomon

    btw--sending out digital "galleys" is now SOP in book publishing, so there's no reason it wouldn't become so for the recording industry. It doesn't mean book publishers don't print bound copies, just that they take longer to get out and to ship; ditto on the CDs. It's a timing thang rather than a comment on anything else.

  • Micah Solomon

    Of course nobody carries around a discman, but tons of people buy music on CD. CDs have proven themselves (so far) 100% forwardly compatible with every new digital format that has come along, they are great as a backup, and the "plummeted" statistics are actually more of an indicator of the huge shift away from major label hits and farther down the long tail, to the entirely non-counted "sole proprietor" independent artists.

  • Bill Aicher

    I still only purchase music on a CD format and honestly have no interest in buying it digitally. Digital files have lower audio quality, do not have physical backups (which a CD is), still sometimes have to deal with DRM, and do not play in car CD players.

    I do, however, subscribe to Napster and share a lot of that music throughout my home network for listening. But when I want to own music I opt to purchase the CD for most of the above reasons, as well as for the packaging, artwork, liner notes and physically "having" something for the money I spent.

    I have no interest in ever stopping purchasing CDs - at least unless a better physical format comes out. If I can have a physical copy, create a digital reproduction from that that's higher fidelity than what I can buy as a download, I'll stick with the physical copy.