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CD Holds Its Own vs. Digital Downloads

CD-revenues-2003-12According to some Billboard articles I’ve been reading, CD continues to lose ground in the U.S. but is holding its own better than some may have thought.

The divide between CDs and downloads has definitely grown closer in recent years. According to Billboard, in 2013 CDs represented 57.2% of the U.S. album market, while downloads were 40.6%. In 2012, CDs were 61.2% of the pie, while in 2011, they were 67.6%. Through January 2014, CDs are 48.3% of all album sales, as compared to its 50.3% share in January 2013.

While this trend will no doubt continue, the gleam seems to be fading from downloads a bit. In 2013, U.S. digital track sales fell 5.7% from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Billboard tells me this is the first time since the iTunes Store launched that the U.S. music industry finished the year with a decrease in digital music sales.

According to RIAA, after four straight years of declines that exceeded 20% (from 2007 to 2010) CD revenues declined 8.5% in 2011, 18.3% in 2012, and less than 15% in 2013. So, as the graphic I pinched from Billboard illustrates, CD as the preeminent physical format, is leveling somewhat. (More thoughts on physical formats in an upcoming post.)

At a time when download sales may also be levelling, I found the following quote from a Billboard article encouraging for CD, “It’s arguable that the CD will never go away completely — at least within the next decade or two. Even if CD revenue drops 20% a year, the format will still have $217 million of revenues in 2023. As long as there is demand and there are manufacturers to fulfill that demand within a reasonable cost, expect to see the CD around for many more years.”

Interesting… as I sit listening to Dave Brubeck streaming on my Rhapsody subscription service. Hmmm…


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