It wasn’t that long ago that compact discs, popularly known as CDs, dominated mainstream music. That was until Napster, the iPod, and, later, services like Spotify totally made the medium obsolete.
Sales of CDs in 2001 were over 800 million according to Consequence of Sound’s statistics cited by Business Insider. Now? Sales of 89 million, a massive drop from its peak. Naturally the retail space allocated to selling compact discs shrank as sales declined. However, most big-box retailers and the remaining music stores around kept them in stock.
Best Buy announced that will no longer be the case starting July 1, 2018 per a report from Billboard. While once a leading retailer in the sale of CDs in the United States, Best Buy now says that the units account for less than $40 million in annual revenue according to Digital Trends. In retail, floor space is a premium, and if a product doesn’t perform, it could cost the retailer money in space alone. This seems to be the fate befalling CDs at Best Buy outlets.
Interestingly, Best Buy will continue to sell vinyl music and record tables. The sales of vinyl hit a high last year and accounted for 14% of all music sales according to Digital Trends.
And this news has customers up in arms over the decision. Why isn’t exactly clear, but it seems the long-awaited disappearance of CDs from the market is upon us. Business Insider further reports that major retailer Target is expected to also cease the sale of compact discs. Many retailers are even asking CD distributors to sell on consignment as well as purchase unsold inventory, a system that is not favorable to many distributors.
Currently Target purchases CDs when they are first released and ships back unsold inventory to its distributor at its own expense. Negotiations to change this arrangement have a deadline of April or May and neither side looks close to budging on the issue.
Target was and is currently a major player in the music retail space. Taylor Swift’s smash-hit 2017 album Reputation sold over 500,000 copies at the retailer alone.
Consumers are understandably upset, with many expressing sentiments that this is the end of CDs, an oft-heard though yet unfulfilled prophecy.
CDs still remain popular in the rest of the world where Internet connections are unreliable and often expensive. Streaming music and digital downloads is still very much a first-world trend, so CDs won’t be disappearing entirely anytime soon.
Major North American retailers Wal-Mart and Amazon will continue to carry physical CDs though they could eventually follow suit. Perhaps they will relegate physical copies to online-only purchases.
While the future is not bright for CD retailing in North America, fans of music should take heart. Just as vinyl has had a resurgence, CDs, too, could make a market comeback, especially as more and more music aficionados tout its superior quality.