In the age of digital streaming, it’s not surprising that many people view CDs as a relic of days gone by, taking their place alongside the other musical dinosaurs of vinyl, tape cassettes and Walkmans.
With Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal taking over the music scene and replacing the act of listening to a full album on a physical player, many artists have actually chosen not to produce physical CDs at all. In fact, Kanye West’s most recent release, The Life of Pablo, is currently only officially available via streaming services.
But, there is lots of evidence to suggest that we need not be organising the funeral for this beloved technology just yet: CDs are still an important aspect of producing and distributing music material.
Here, we’ve found some of the top reasons why CDs still matter to the music industry in 2018.
They generate revenue
One of the biggest contributions that CDs make to the music industry is the huge amount of revenue that they continue to pull in, which is a far cry from the widespread opinion of CDs being a financial black hole.
Digital streaming was only projected to overtake global sales of CDs in 2017, suggesting that up until only last year, CDs continued to be the top dog of the music industry.
Due to still contributing a huge revenue for the industry as a whole, the disappearance of CDs could come as quite a shock.
Some audiences still prefer them
Although many people choose to stream music digitally for the convenience and access to lots of different genres, there are still lots of audiences who prefer the old-school method of playing a physical CD.
Whether it’s because they’re uncomfortable with digital streaming and the technology that comes with it or just audiophiles who enjoy the feeling of physical CDs and setting the player, removing CDs from the equation would likely alienate a lot of people from the music industry.
Plus, nostalgia is beginning to play a large part in driving the industry in both vinyl and CD sales, with today’s millennials reliving their favourite music growing up through rediscovering physical CDs.
They help unsigned bands to get their break
Perhaps one of the most important contributions that CDs make to the music industry is that of developing the industry itself, through helping new bands get their break and transform the music landscape.
When young bands are starting off, CDs are one of the best ways to get their name out there through selling merchandise at gigs. It helps to build a fanbase and create awareness of their material, helping them to get recognised by those in the music industry.
Plus, it’s long been considered that CDs are the primary way to get reviewed by large publications. In this article by Forbes, it suggests that many reviewers are less inclined to review digital-only material, meaning new bands require CDs to break into the industry.
They offer better sound quality
Although this is one more for the audiophiles, CDs offer better sound quality compared to digital MP3 and thus a better listening experience.
Digital streaming has to compress material to fit onto MP3 files, so it tends to lose a lot of the integrity of its data, producing a lower quality sound which is only enhanced by listening via rubbish headphones!
Although we won’t go into all the detail here, this article has some more information on the different sound quality.
They offer a better connection to the artist
Finally, CDs can be argued to offer a better connection to the artist than listening via a digital device.
Because of the physical process involved in purchasing the CD, unpackaging it and playing it, rather than just clicking a button to instantly stream it, many fans feel more invested in the artist and more connected to the music, especially if CDs have been bought at a gig.
Plus, as this article in Rolling Stone suggests, the added information that comes with CDs such as credits, liner notes and lyrics, allows you explore the music more deeply.