by Mike Masnick

The Death Of The CD Is Greatly Exaggerated

from the not-dead-yet! dept

There's been a lot of talk lately about how the CD is dying, what with sales plummeting and record stores like Tower Records shutting down. However, over at Slate, Daniel Gross is challenging that idea by noting that there still appears to be plenty of life in the CD business. What's changed is the old business models concerning how CDs were sold. He points to the fact that a Seattle Tower Records store was taken over by a local record store that's expanding. Like previous examples we've seen of independent record stores learning how to adapt to the changing market, stores that stop focusing on protecting a particular format or a particular business model, and instead focus on helping customers enjoy the music they want, find that there's still quite a market for that. Just because some businesses in the music industry are unable to adapt, it doesn't mean the rest of the industry is in trouble.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    dorpus, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 6:48am

    Bring back LD's

    I want the heavy glass discs that shatter into a thousand pieces when you drop them.

    Unless, of course, we abide by the early 1990s marketing hype that CD's are "indestructible".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Rene Ferrer, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 7:40am

    Actually no, they're pretty much dead.

    The CD died a quiet lonely death while being shipped to places like Tower Records, Sam Goodie's and Walmart.

    Music continued to thrive and multiply over that new thing called the internet and (like it or not) peer-to-peer file sharing applications.

    Good riddance. I have a 1GB USB drive on my key chain that sends his regards to the deceased... :P


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 7:41am

    I still call them record stores..

    I am a dinosaur.
    Do people still go to record stores to buy records,
    I mean CD Stores to buyCDs?

    I know they go to hand-out, drink coffee, read a book.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    MP3 please?, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 7:53am

    What will they play music on? An 8 Track?

    I play my music on an MP3 player. A CD is a fine carrier, but the format requires a rip it first to MP3 then upload it to my MP3.

    Why can't I simply get them nicely ripped into MP3, either on another disk or on the flip side of the CD?

    I just don't imagine there are so many people now that play CDs and as long as the CD is unprotected, what difference does it make if the flip side contains nicely ripped, ready made mp3s?

    That battle has been lost, the MP3 player is the future, not the 10 track CD. It doesn't stop pirates, it does disadvantage regular users, so why not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Evostick, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:00am

    As history

    Imagine you've just told your future kids and Grandkids about how music and films were sold in days gone by.

    "What! They had huge shops and all they sold were plastic discs with data on them? That's mad Granddad!"

    As a part of history, CD's (& DVD's) will seem really strange.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Casper, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:02am

    I hate CD's

    I have never liked the idea of a record or a CD. I generally only like a few songs per CD and I have no interest in spending money on songs that are so crappy I would walk out on them at the local karaoke bar.

    What I want is a networked vending machine of songs that I can walk up to, connect a USB drive or MP3 player, pick a play list of music, add/remove songs to get it the way I want, slide my debit card, and have it upload my selection. I don't want DRM, I don't want proprietary formats, I just want the music I paid for and I want it right when I pay for it. Of course, if I had my way, all MP3 players would have WIFI so that I could just hit a button and go get music from online directly to my mp3 player, skipping the laptop and vending machine all together. I could just download songs while ordering my coffee in the morning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:03am

    I like CD's...still

    If it is new, I buy the CD at a store that uses music as a loss leader. The prices are better than any music/record store. If it is an old album I buy it used on Amazon or eBay for much cheaper. I am not really interested in hanging out at a store with a 25 year-old goth boy with black eye makup, five studs in his eyebrow in a tight midriff and chains going every which way helping me choose some music. I am sure others might...dorpus? I could see how a record store of this caliber would work in certain places like Seattle where the music is made and thriving but I am certain these stores will not get enough business in my hometown of Fresno, CA where we had a Tower Records that must have gone in and out of business three or four times in five years. The Wherehouse has opened and closed stores for years, selling used CDs and video rentals justify the existence of the last one in town among the eight that once existed. You just don't have the interest or customer base.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Jayrad, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:07am

    Please. Maybe once people realize that MP3s sound like crap, they'll find that the CD is far from dead.

    People are eerily satisfied with sound quality that was the standard in 1982. When was the last time you put a store-bought CD and listened?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Innovative, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:08am

    Great idea

    Why don't they sell music on usb keychains in mp3 format?

    Wouldn't that encourage people to buy albums? I'm sure its cost effective too.

    That would justify shelling out $20 for an album and you get a nice usb disk to boot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    1337onidas, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:16am



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    John, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:19am

    CD not RIP yet!

    The $14,99 top 40 CD is indeed dead; the $7 CD is not! Price-gouging middlemen are out, used CD sales are in. Having crap selection at Tower is out, buying CDs directly from artists at shows is in. Consumers like me still want CDs, but not at the ridiculous prices we see in some places. File sharing is not entirely to blame (not even neat encrypted solutions like http://www.gigatribe.com ), video games are a huge factor here too!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    boomhauer (profile), Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:19am


    guess im tossed back into ye olde cd world, bought me a new hotrod last year and... doh, nice 6 cd changer but NO mp3 sppt... you mean i can only burn a few songs on one of these??? ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    boomhauer (profile), Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:19am


    guess im tossed back into ye olde cd world, bought me a new hotrod last year and... doh, nice 6 cd changer but NO mp3 sppt... you mean i can only burn a few songs on one of these??? ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    EffedRange, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:22am


    All of my mp3s are encoded at 320 Kbps and sound great. (same as CD). i also write my own music and encode it the same and it sounds better because a CD cant hold a 24bit sound, only 16bit, yuk 16bit, now thats a 1982 standard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:43am

    Down with the middleman!

    Most record execs are just middlemen/women that have inserted themselves into an equation that now no longer needs them.

    One big problem with cds is that they are no where near indestructible. A tiny scratch can ruin a 15.99 purchase. When I buy a cd I make 2 copies, one digital (for when I finally buy an mp3 player) and save on my pc and one on a blank cd so I can carry it around which lets me leave the original at home. I bought the album once and I'll be damned if I'm gonna get it scratched and have to buy it all over again because some old guy siting in a boardroom is too stuborn to change change his business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    arbulus, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:44am

    Here too?

    oh hi there, John, or should I say j2007? Too bad your ass got booted from digg.

    Please stop trolling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Decks, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:48am


    Here, here....or should I say hear, hear!

    I love the fact I can carry my music collection on my 30G iPod. Thats all I need when I'm walking around town, but at home I'd rather put on a CD that hasn't had all the life compressed out of it in the MP3 conversion, and actually hear the whole thing!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    EdB, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:49am


    Your music must suck. Sound is ANALOG. Vinyl beats anything digital.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 8:59am

    Re: CD not RIP yet!

    Right on the money. I bet Tower had 8 million copies of the new Justin Timberlake, 10 million Britney Spears, etc, etc, and couldn't figure out why they were setting on tons of stock. Best Buy does the same thing, enormous music section, but no real selection within it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:02am


    I have approximately 1000CDs that I carry on my 80GB Neuros in OGG format and they sound just fine to me.

    I'll continue to buy CD's because there is only one electronic music store I will do business with, and that's eMusic.com. They are a great service with a great price, but since they believe in giving value to the customer, they don't use DRM and the most labels won't play ball with them. While the majority of the music I get these days is from eMusic, if they don't carry it, I'll buy the CD.

    As far as iTunes, Napster and the rest go, their DRM is a pain in the butt and their selection is pathetic. eMusic doesn't have a good selection if you're looking for something specific, but if you explore what they do have, there is a tremendous wealth of great stuff waiting to be discovered. I have the highest subscription you can buy and I usually go through my downloads practically the day they get refreshed and have dozens and dozens of albums queued up for the future.

    In the meantime, CD's aren't going anywhere for those of us who are actually interested in music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Jayrad, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:11am

    Re: Effed Range

    I hear what you're saying, but recording is an art. It's not just about the numbers, it's about the technique. There are plenty of people out there that can make 16-bit recording sound as good and better than 24/96.

    I'm honestly not sure what artists use in their studios these days, but since it will wind up in 16/44.1 anyway, I don't think it matters much. Until you find a way to distribute music to me in 24/96, the 16/44.1 quality a CD-offers is the current best for a consumer.

    Your 320 Kbps MP3s probably do sound just fine, but I'm pretty sure that iTunes only distributes 128kbps MP3s (please correct me if I'm wrong), and I'm sure iTunes downloads represent a great bulk of the MP3s currently living on peoples iPods. Many other MP3s in circulation are in 128. Certainly not 320.

    The point I'm trying to make is that the great majority of portable music users are listening to music that is far below CD quality, which is why CDs are far from dead. Maybe some recognize that, maybe some don't, but I don't see CDs going anywhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: CD not RIP yet!

    Every Best Buy I've seen has cut its music section down to a small fraction of what it used to be. When BB first opened in this area (Northern VA) about 15 years ago their selection was quite impressive and I bought a lot of CDs there. I've bought maybe one CD at BB in the past 2 years and never bother to browse any more.

    Now that Tower is gone, there is literally no brick-and-mortar store in this area that sells music that is worth even going in.

    Good thing there's the Internet. Minus Tower records, I've probably bought 90% my CDs in the past 5 years or more online. Now that Tower is gone, that percentage will push 100.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    James, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:31am

    CD not dead

    Why? Simple... because its STILL has the least inconvient (iTunes aside), music-to-DRM coefficient.

    FWIW.. I dislike the whole iTunes ecosystem, but, it seems to be the 2nd least inconvient method of buying music since you can burn the DRM tracks (read crippled media) to CD then rip them to DRM-less (read fixed) MP3 format.

    That all said......I rarely ever buy music unless I truly truly like the artist and want something they have put out. This is out how I am doing my part to rid the world of the RIAA types by NOT buying their crap.

    They don't want to re-think their business model? Fine. Let the $$ dry up, and lets see what they come up with next.

    Hmm... will they start suing ppl for not buying their crap?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    glenwood, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:51am

    CD not dead with me

    I hear about the "destructible" CD with some disdain but what happens when your 80G mp3 player crashes with all your music on it? Oh, I know, the music is on your HD at home. But most people don't back their data up anyway, so there will be some big tears for those whose music is all digital. I want my CD's and my mp3 player...and backups of all.

    Additionally, I like "albums". I find listening to the "hit" is so limiting. If you listen to a collection of songs (let's call it an album) I think you get a bit more out of the band/music/artist. Listening to the "hit" is like watching the trailer from a movie...oh it's fun to watch, but you don't get the whole story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Jaba Point Mick, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:53am


    Well as long as I store all those scratched up unplayable cd's I bought in the last 20+ years, I will always have a License to download the those tracks from any p2p site. I mean they wouldn't want me to have to buy another CD right? At $15 dollars a pop, and not to be selfish I should provide people the ability to replace there lost tracks since they bought that cd at one time or another, then again maybe the Record Industry should pay me a fee for the bandwidth I provide to replace their indestructible coasters.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    David, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 9:59am


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    theOngman, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Not quite dead yet.....

    As long as people have 5 yearold+ cars and stereos that can't play MP3s, there will be a need for CDs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Jason Miller, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 10:05am

    As far as online music services go, alltunes (allofmp3) is the way to go. You can find most of what your looking for, the tags are accurate and complete, album art is readily available and you can download in hight quality 320 or lower qualities to save a little $$. The fact that you pay by the amount of data you download as opposed to a flat rate per song is the biggest selling point in my book.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    18/m/me, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 10:26am

    Re: Actually no, they're pretty much dead.

    1gb usb drives aren't good for anything except porn.. they need to make 120gb usb drives.. better yet, faster internet so we never need to upload off a disk.. why would you upload of a disk if you could do it more efficiently and more compatibly online. back in the day you had to by the game and try to get it to the right version because you can't update a cd.. but games like counter-strike and steam don't need cd's ever again because you can do it all online

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    eighteen inches. around, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 10:31am

    you guys totaly don't understand. cd's are for the transfer of data. name one game you can't download the .iso's (the 'data' files or picture files) off from a torrent. You guys are thinking too much about the storage part of it. You wouldn't need cd's at all if you had a better way to transfer. i.e pluging your new ipod or Zune to the usb port of your computer. mp3 players and usb drives deffinitily are advances but are things we don't need in the end with fiberoptics coming out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Charles Griswold, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 4:38pm


    I buy CDs, rip them into OGG files, and then store the CDs someplace safe. That way, if my hard drive loses all of its magic blue smoke, my music is still safe.

    I also try to buy music from independent artists, so as not to support the RIAA. That's a separate issue, however.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    SFGary, Mar 28th, 2007 @ 4:48pm


    iTunes music is typically encoded at 128k AAC. If I set up a blind test against 320k mp3 or even a CD you would be most likely be unable to tell the difference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Mar 28th, 2007 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Bring back LD's

    Newbie. Nothin' sounds better than wax cylinders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Judy Rodman, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 6:53am

    Do remember the artist

    This whole revolution is like a wonderful splash in the face. I was an artist with hit records just as the first cds were created... I know how fast technology can change things. I do believe that a lot of cold, corporate greed has driven the music business for a long time, and that is now getting turned on it's head. Cool. Anarchy to break the bottlenecks at the labels and radio!

    BUT: Please don't forget about the artist- the singer and the songwriter. Don't they have a right to compensation? Unfortunately in our culture there is no patron of the arts like in the really old days. Artists are laborers and need to make a living, too. The RIAA screwed up foolishly and stupidly by trying to sue music customers. But there has to be a way that music lovers and music creators can help each other.

    And imho if cds die, it won't be mp3s that kill them. It will be a better format. Who the heck knows what it will be. But it will enable storage of quality sound.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 9:16am

    Crappy speakers

    a 128k MP3 is perfectly good enough for even reasonalby good earbuds, which arfe what most people listen to thier porrtalble music on anyway. Whiel AAC or OGG are better, and I tend to use the same bitrate for them too, I prefer to use compressed WAVs for good Quality.

    I have ripped alot of tapes to CD, and owing to the amount of work involved in cutting up, cleaning and so forth, I burnt mmost of the audio to CD anyway. It might cost me 10c an album, but I value 90 mins or so of work at more than that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Mark Treu, May 25th, 2007 @ 1:27am

    Re: Do remember the artist

    Mrs. Rodman,
    You are correct. The artist/singer ie songwriters are the only people who deserve to be (and they are)remembered. I have no sympathy for the record companies...as they have screwed everyone for years. I really enjoyed (and still do) all of your music from the 80's and 90's. Only wish I could find your albums on CD and/or DVD.

    Be safe!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Scuppernong, Jul 23rd, 2007 @ 6:26pm

    With memory sticks, who needs CDs?

    The CD is definitely over, over, over. Every music store I go into, you can hear the crickets chirping.

    Wal-Mart has upped the bitrate of their downloads. It's officially for real now, downloading is IT.

    An indie label, Superfrothco, has abandoned the CD and now only offers their albums in USB Flash Drive (memory stick) format, preloaded with mp3 files ready to drag onto your iPod or Zune.

    The amazing thing is that everyone on Earth seems to see it coming except CD store owners. It's like they're in denial.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    everycritic, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Down with the middleman!

    "One big problem with cds is that they are no where near indestructible. A tiny scratch can ruin a 15.99 purchase"


    I bought my first CD in 1989. Have bought well over 1000 since and never scratched one.

    What are you doing with yours?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    everycritic, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Do remember the artist

    That's the whole reason I love CDs as opposed to MP3s. With CDs, I get to have photographs and liner notes and a PERMANENT keepsake that will still play in 30 years. (How many files from your 1986 Apple can you still open?)

    For me the best way to support the artists you love is to buy permanent product that features their talents.

    Finally.... how anyone can say the CD will die when LPs are making a small but noticable comeback is beyond me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    everycritic, Jun 5th, 2008 @ 1:18pm

    Re: With memory sticks, who needs CDs?

    Kevin Maney, USA Today: seven 'years after the introduction of iTunes and the iPod, online music has failed to interest the vast majority of the world's music consumers.' 94% of the population has failed to embrace MP3 as a distribution model-of-choice, yet you'd never know that from the marketing hype."

    I think someone is in denial here but it ain't the CD sellers.

    No, CD sales will no longer be like they were in the 1990s when all of us oldsters were re-buying our LP and cassette collections. That massive surge is over. But just because something doesn't sell in stratospheric numbers doesn't have to mean it's "dead".

    I'm sick of the hyperbole.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    pds1969, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    A lost art form

    The album and the CD represent an art form that the current generation does not understand nor do they have the patience for. Not saying it is a bad thing, its just that way it has evolved. Personally, I love listening to a whole CD that an artist developed to be played all the way through as one piece of art. Even if there are songs I like better than others on it, I like to listen to it the way it was intended to be listened to. There will continue to be artists who record that way but more and more artists will be more interested in singles that will be purchased ala cart via MP3 or whatever format.

    The sad part is that sound is being compromised, fidelity is down the tubes and artists don't even record their originals in as high a quality format than they used to.

    I think CDs will be around a while longer. And yes, I listen to CDs! I have an MP3 player but I only use it when I walk the dog and even then I listen to whole albums so there are still some of us around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    lindsay scott, Jan 25th, 2009 @ 3:34pm

    death of cd

    i still buy cd albums because i enjoy collecting them,looking at the booklets e.t.c.i rip my favourite tracks to my p.c and add them to my mp3 also but the cd is what a real music fan wants.i would not pay £8.99 to buy a file!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anna Loggerheads, Jul 29th, 2009 @ 2:44pm

    Death of CD

    mp3's are rentals. Low quality rentals at that.

    CD's are good-and getting better-just like the LP did with it's playback gear, which didn't hit it's stride until the '80's and '90's.

    I like Permanant music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    Trancer, Jan 31st, 2010 @ 4:38am

    CD's are so poorly mastered

    Mp3's are low quality rentals to me too.
    The issue also is, that cd's are often so poorly mastered
    The artists music gets compressed to death, by ignorant record companies...So they sound crappy similar to poor quality mp3s. No surprise that many don't want them, crappy mastered quality.
    Record companies therefore could not care less of quality of artists music, and literally destroy artists music before it gets pressed on cd's...Loudness Wars horrors yes.
    Artists should master & sell their own music in many formats (cd's too) and heartless record companies to go bankrupt!
    I prefer physical music too as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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