Published on November 3rd, 2012 | by Hugh Hession3
Is the CD dead? Not yet!
One thing that I continually encourage others to do, is to stop buying into media hype. To take that a step further, an influential author, consultant, blog, magazine or whatever, takes a position regarding the “state” of the music business and then everyone jumps on board. Might be The DIY hype, the death of the record label, or the most famous one of all – CD’s are a thing of the past.
I often find myself having conversations with people who echo these same sentiments without regard to any further thought on the matter. It’s like they memorize this shit. First, it was music business 2.0, then, 3.0. Shouldn’t it be about time we make the shift to 4.0? Ha!
To be fair, there’s validity in some of these concepts, however one thing I will say, is that the CD isn’t dead. At least, not yet. Let’s stop trying to make it something it isn’t. The melodrama and histrionics just kills me.
Yes. The CD album format is in decline. To date, the format is 14% down from last year. However, there’s one very important aspect to be considered, and that is, CD’s still outsell digital albums – making up 59% of overall album sales (according to Billboard, out of the 234.2 million albums scanned this year, 138.8 million are CD’s, bringing in close to $3 billion in sales). They’re hardly dead. In fact, big box retailer Target has been gaining traction with their deluxe album editions and exclusive deals with major artists like Gloria Estefan, Beyonce, Adele, One Direction and yes, even Tony Bennett. Taylor Swift leads the pack with major promotional initiatives involving her 2010 release Speak Now, and now her latest, Red.
Sideline Magazine came out with an article last year entitled CD Format To Be Abandoned by The Major Labels by the End of 2012. The first opening lines read:
"You read it well. The major labels plan to abandon the CD-format by the end of 2012 (or even earlier) and replace it with download/stream only releases via iTunes and related music services."
The date of that article was October 23, 2011. It then goes on to say that the majors declined to comment after the magazine “heard it for the first time.” No mention to the source.
At that same time, Billboard’s Glenn Peoples commented that reports regarding the demise of the CD are “dubious.”
"Record labels have shown no desire to ditch the CD. The format still accounts for most sales revenue, and labels have been able to encourage the development of new digital business models while enjoying-not relying on-the considerable revenue CD sales provide."
The effect on unsigned artists and indies
It’s a singles game. There’s no question about that. Digital tracks are up 6.1% from last year and store singles up a whopping 44.2%. However, the CD album format is still relevant, especially for the touring indie. CD Baby President Brian Felsen has even reported that more CD’s have been collectively sold on the site this year (August 2012), verses the same time in 2011.
I recently promoted a show for one of my clients (a modern rock act) in a small theater with a capacity of 500. We sold $1200 in merchandise, with a little over 40% of that coming from CD sales. Ask any indie touring act, and they’ll tell you all day long, that CD’s are still very relevant at their shows. There’s still something to be said about seeing a great band and having the ability to walk over to their merch table to buy the songs that are being performed. It’s tangible, it’s point of purchase. It works.
I know. There will come a day when CD’s will ultimately become extinct. However, don’t jump to the conclusion that the format has completely lost its allure, particularly when there’s still demand and you can use that to your benefit, to attract new fans.