The compact disc was introduced in 1982 and proved a great commercial success. But in the midst of the current economic crisis, an already struggling music industry has turned to other ways of generating income. Direct download sites such as iTunes and the music for free video network YouTube flourish as part of a new complex business strategy. To all intents and purposes, the CD has the appearance of suffering the same fate as vinyl and being consigned to history.
There is considerable evidence that consumers are no longer inclined to go out and buy a CD. According to data released recently by BPI for 2010 UK digital albums grew by 30.6 % while in the same period the market for CD albums declined 12.4%. This is on the back of a constant and ongoing decline. The picture in the US is broadly similar, figures released by Nielson Soundscan for 2007 shows that CD’s made up 90% of album sales in the US, with digital making up the other 10%. Two years on and the figures had shifted to 79% CD’s and 20% digital.
The truth is that some music artists such as the country group Lady Antebellum and Justin Beaver is selling well in both formats. This demonstrates that there are a lot of fans who simply want to spend money to support the artist. One obvious advantage of digital downloads is the opportunity to provide an immediate fix. An individual who hears a song on television or YouTube music which they like can then download it almost immediately creating an instant hit.
There is hope for the CD here and evidence that it is likely to be around for the foreseeable future. It is no longer a mass market product but more of a niche item serving a tiny but committed band of followers. There are plenty of examples where pop music albums are selling in huge figures. While young artists like Ke$ha take a bigger piece of the digital cake the opposite is true when it comes to older artists such as James Taylor.