With so much music available to download or stream online, it’s not surprising to hear that CD sales are declining and stores like HMV are closing. But does this mark the end of the road for CDs?
When was the last time you bought an album on CD? If HMV’s recent announcement about closing down stores and news that album sales dropped for the sixth year running are anything to go by, I’d guess not very recently.
I can probably count the albums I bought last year on my fingers (maybe even one hand). For someone who pertains to love music, that’s pretty embarrassing. But, with so many other ways to listen to new music, is it unusual?
Does free streaming play a part?
Not long ago, Patrick Steen raised the question, ‘Will free music streaming destroy digital downloads?‘ His theory was that the growing popularity of services like Spotify and Last.fm could stop many of us paying for much of the music we can now listen to on demand, for free.
His question got some mixed responses. Fat Sam admitted he uses these sites a lot, but insisted that being exposed to more music encouraged him to buy more. Nursebill123 is even more of a convert, having subscribed to the paid version of Spotify: “I just wish more people would gravitate to one of the paid versions as I did, to lessen the chances of the whole thing folding”.
How people are paying for music
So it seems that Which? Convo commenters are prepared to pay for music, but what about the rest of the nation? Music sales figures released this week certainly suggest more of us are favouring digital music over CDs. While digital album sales were up by 30.6% on last year (from just over 16m to 21m), the CD market continued to slump, falling 12.4% to 98.5m. It might sound like a large number, but 128.9m CD album sales were made in 2009.
And this knock in sales is obviously taking its toll on the high street. As these figures were going to press, HMV announced it will be closing 60 UK stores this year, with Christmas sales down 10%.
But HMV isn’t the first big chain to feel the pressure. How can we forget Woolworths’ demise? Then there was the closure of smaller indie-chain Fopp in 2007. A small number of Fopp stores have since reopened, but as some of these were funded by HMV, they could now be facing an uncertain future again.
The one chink of light for the music industry lies in singles sales, which have risen by 5.9% in the past year – and an overwhelming 98% of these were digital.
So are we heading for a future where CDs become obsolete on the high street? Will albums only be bought online – if they’re bought at all – or will we all purchase singles via iTunes and subscribe to streaming services instead?
How do you get most of your music?
I buy CDs online (49%, 311 Votes)
I buy CDs in music shops (19%, 123 Votes)
I buy digital downloads from online music stores (18%, 115 Votes)
I mostly use free streaming services (13%, 83 Votes)
Total Voters: 632