My Dear Old CD – Le Roi est mort, Vive le Roi!
Yeah, I know, I loved my CDs too. Just like many of you, I grow up with them. Today, they are massively ignored although being widely available. Tomorrow, they will be a niche market and people will start looking after them. This is the irony of human race.
Will physical format truly disappear yet? The answer is no. For the average consumer, it won’t be there anymore. For collectors, the professional or the nostalgic, it will be forever be a nice sweet. As a proof of that, below are yearly Soundscan sales in the US for Vinyl format, which registered post-1991 yearly record every year since 2008 included.
- 2000 – 1,500,000 – old record in Soundscan era (from 1991)
- 2006 – under 1,000,000
- 2008 – 1,880,000
- 2009 – 2,500,000
- 2010 – 2,800,000
- 2011 – 3,900,000
- 2012 – 4,600,000
- 2013 – 6,100,000
- 2014 – 9,200,000
- 2015 – 11,900,000
Interesting point is how vinyl started to take off as downloads arrived. It became the elitist buying for people mostly listening digital music regarded as cheap and free. The vinyl boom was mostly due to rock fans, representing more than 70% of sales. In 2015, an unbelievable 18% of physical rock purchases were vinyl records. But the new interesting point is that vinyl sales of Pop records exploded 163% this year and represent now 5,7% of all physical sales of Pop music, against barely 2,8% last year. It reveals how this elitist buying of vinyl is extending to all music fans.
The only question remaining is which format will survive – the vinyl, that may keep booming every year, or the CD, that once lower will start itself to get back some reward. One may think favored format will be the CD because it relates to more current buyers and because its quality is higher. But the main reason of buying those physical records is not the music itself. In fact, while vinyl sales explode, sales of turntables struggled during various years before finally taking off in 2014. The reason is known: over half of vinyl consumers never listen to them. Their primary functionality is for decoration purpose, an easy show off of some cultural knowledge. Owners of vinyl are cool intellectuals, owner of CDs are tacky getting ripped off. While hype trends tend to not last and those caricatured images may evolve, considering the phenomenon has been going on for a decade now I’ll still place my bet on vinyl as the physical record survivor. One thing is sure, large international releases will still see both a CD and a Vinyl release for many more years.