Talking to execs about the future of physical music this week, one joked that we’ll soon need a CD Day to persuade consumers of the joys of the compact disc.
At least, I think they were joking. I am sadly old enough to remember trying to remain a hardcore vinyl buyer as the CD revolution swept the nation. Back then, it seemed like my loyalty to the format was ‘rewarded’ only by an ever-smaller selection and an ever-shoddier product, until the industry killed off the format completely (or so we thought at the time).
Now, you wonder if the reverse is true. Vinyl releases are, by and large, lovingly curated and high quality, even when it’s not Record Store Day. That's part of the reason why vinyl has become such a big part of the retail picture, and why so many consumers and music outlets have returned to the format. Many CD packages are also beautifully put together but, increasingly, some seem to view the format as an afterthought.
For now at least, CD player penetration amongst UK households surely remains much higher than that of, say, voice-controlled digital devices
The days of CDs dominating the sales figures may be gone. Indeed, the Q1 figures made sobering reading for anyone who relies on the format, with physical sales plunging 24.2% year-on-year, despite vinyl still being on the up. But the likes of Ed Sheeran and Rag’N’Bone Man have shown that, when a record is right, physical sales can still hit the highs, and deliver big revenues to boot.
Also, for now at least, CD player penetration amongst UK households surely remains much higher than that of, say, voice-controlled digital devices. And, while Spotify recently made a big play of targeting in-car streaming, there’s barely a motor out there – whether old banger or brand new hybrid – that doesn’t feature a CD player.
That’s a lot of people to forget about, before we even consider what the loss of a physical option might do to the gifting market. So, as you queue to get your limited edition RSD vinyl this weekend, spare a thought for the humble CD and maybe pick up a few while you’re in the shop.
After all, it will save us all the trouble of having to engineer a CD revival in a few years’ time…