I am an independent artist. Technically. I make music. While, I have no dreams to make a living making music, I do have a desire for the music that I make to be heard. And as a result of that desire, I try hard to keep my fingers on the pulse of the music industry in regards to how people consume music. For years I have watched the digital medium become more and more prevalent. And for those same years, I, like so many of my fellow independent artists, have been in denial about the compact disc. I have burned CD's, passed out CD's and sold CD's. I have even had a successful Kickstarter campaign to print up 1000 CD's. So, it's with a heavy heart that I have finally faced the cold hard fact: The CD is dead.
It became crystal clear to me just last week. I was talking to someone about my last project and she seems genuinely interested in the music. I happened to have a CD on me and when I handed it to her, she responded, "Oh, man. I wanted to hear it now." Then she waved her phone.
It hit me like rock. She listens to music on her phone. Like I do. Like everyone on my morning commute does. On occasion, I see an iPod or random mp3 player. But I never see a portable CD player. In fact, the last time I saw a man with a portable CD player, he also had on mismatched shoes and was talking to his sandwich.
I became aware of what is required to listen to music on a CD. A car with CD player? A CD player at home? An old computer with a CD drive? Maybe, if the person has an old computer, they will rip the CD to said computer, then upload the ripped tracks to iTunes or whatever music manager is connected to their phone. Seems like a lot to me. In fact it is which is why I have over twenty unused CD's in the bottom drawer of my buffet.
We live in a "right now with the least amount of steps" era and compact discs don't provide the type of instant gratification people want. It is so much easier to just Google the person, find them online and listen. Now. And that ease is the death blow to the compact disc.
Don't just take my word for it. The 2014 Mid-Year Soundscan Report by Ed Christman published on Billboard.com opened with the following:
"While digital streaming revenue growth continues to offset the decline in digital album and track sales, the music industry still has the same problem it has wrestled with for over a decade: physical music's decline is outpacing digital growth."
The IFPI 2014 report states that physical music accounts for 51.4 per cent of industry revenue. The report attributes this number to gifting, box sets and the increase in vinyl (up 32 percent in the US in 2013). If the number 51.4 percent sounds high, consider this: Spiller's Records, the world's oldest record store, opened in 1894. The internet's first music store, Ritmoteca.com, opened in 1998. For 104 years, music revenue was a 100 percent physical. And it only took 16 years to cut that number in half. Moreover, all this data is industry data. So, the way I see it is if the Beyoncé’s, Lorde's and Lady Antebellum's of the world are experiencing a decline in physical music sales, I don't stand a chance.
The CD is dead. It is clear to me that investing in CD's is as archaic as writing checks and using pay phones.
The best way to a person's ears now is their phone. If I want people to hear my music, I have to utilize the avenues that get my jams on to phones in the least amount of steps. That way the next time someone says they want to listen to my music now, they can actually listen to it. Now.