How long can CD music hold out?

Summary:Belated merry 2011, everyone! After a long break from the year-end festivities, I returned to the office this week feeling somewhat rejuvenated and, as I do ever year this time, nostalgic.

Belated merry 2011, everyone! After a long break from the year-end festivities, I returned to the office this week feeling somewhat rejuvenated and, as I do ever year this time, nostalgic.

Old memories flooded in especially after reports revealed that Sony will be shutting down a CD manufacturing plant in March, "in light of the current economic environment and challenges facing the physical media industry".

The latest revelation follows the company's announcement last October that it had ended production of the cassette Walkman, the first low-cost portable music player that made its market debut in July 1979. Sony shipped some 200 million variations of the Walkman during the media player's 30-year lifespan, until its decline when CD players entered the market in the 1990s.

And now it seems, CDs may be heading out the door.

According to the latest numbers released by Nielsen SoundScan, album sales--once the cash cow of record labels--dipped by 12.8 percent in the U.S. last year, where the music industry sold 47 million fewer CDs than it did in 2009.

In comparison, digital album sales climbed 13 percent and accounted for 26.5 percent of overall U.S. album sales in 2010. Individual digital track sales, however, rose only by 1 percent to 1.17 billion. In fact, for the first time in the digital music landscape, overall unit sales fell 2.4 percent.

Perhaps Nielsen's numbers say more about the failing business model of record labels than they do about the physical media market, but what remains telling is that CDs may indeed be on its way out.

It's a doomsday that many have predicted and one that I have always resisted, even as I witness one music store after another shut its doors for the final time. Today, I can count with one hand the number of dedicated CD shops that remain in business.

It's hard to conceive that it was only in July 2009 that a survey conducted by The Music Ally Speakerbox, revealed that 73 percent of 1,000 people polled said they still preferred to buy CDs than download music tracks. Also, 66 percent of respondents between the age of 14 and 18 would rather purchase a CD than fork out money to download an MP3 file online.

Last year, my fellow blogger Swati Prasad recalled fond memories of her library of cassette tapes as she packed them up to be recycled.

I, too, have a collection of about 1,000 music CDs which I had built over the years, and I wonder how many years remain before I have to stand before them, like Swati did with her precious tapes, and bundle them away to be sold to the rag-and-bone guy.

Until then, I shall continue to relish every minute browsing at my favorite CD shops, until the last one closes its doors for the last time.

Topics: Tech Industry, Government : US, Hardware, Legal, Innovation


Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 15 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings. Eileen majored i... Full Bio

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