Why Are CDs on the Decline While Vinyl Is Thriving?

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released it’s annual mid-year report about the status of music revenue. In it, their best statisticians tally up the realities of music sales in America; what’s changed, stayed constant and what that means. This latest report shows some things that are to be expected. It also shows something a little more surprising.

The report shows that our beloved old friend CDs are on the decline, very rapidly. Their data shows that CD revenue dropped 41.5% this first half of 2018. On the other hand, vinyl is having an optimistic rise, with a 12.6% increase in revenue generated. Both of these pale in comparison to streaming, which grew 28% year-over-year. But the difference between forms of physical distribution is interesting.

Despite fewer artists releasing music on them and some stores stocking them less, they’re still sold in the millions. But this data shows an interesting downward trend that seems to have gotten worse. CDs seem to be on their way out, while vinyl is fighting it’s way out of disuse. More and more people are turning their back on their old friend.

In a few years, ad-supported and paid streaming may be the only ways you can access music, apart from vinyl records or digital download. Some of us may be saddened by this, and some of us may not care. But it begs the question why someone would give up a convenient disc for an oversized one. Why are the two trading places?

Perhaps CDs aren’t so convenient after all

As mentioned above, the compact disc is becoming less produced. Sales are down in almost every genre, except for country, greatest-hits and soundtracks. Meanwhile some artists are releasing their latest music exclusively on vinyl. This preference for vinyl didn’t come out of a vacuum; it comes from a love of nostalgia, often called retromania.

On top of this, vinyl carries a distinct sound that’s different from the CD. It’s been described as having “warmth” to it, something caused by audio distortion intrinsic to analog music. It also requires total album immersion in a sequential track experience. Skipping songs on a record player is not as easy as track seeking on your old discman. The involvement that vinyl gives can make it a more wholesome experience.

Meanwhile, your phone has become everything you need. The mini computer in your pocket can store and access all the world’s information, including audio. The prevalence of streaming has driven access-based music consumption up significantly. This has made your CD player irrelevant, even before it was your phone. Once the iPod took the world by storm, it changed the way we listen to music.

CDs are now only useful in your car, your old boombox or your computer disk drive. Thanks to auxiliary cords and internet access, you can listen to your preferred tunes anywhere, on almost any platform. But this development in technology will never make us forget what CDs did for us. Your old collection may be going out of style, but it will forever remember how your music taste developed.

What do you think? Would you prefer vinyl and streaming, or do you still love your old CDs? Let us know in the comments!