CD Sales 'In Terminal Decline,' but Music Industry Grows

CDs will "never see any kind of sales increase again," but digital is still boosting music revenue according to a new study.

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The US music industry is set to grow by 1 percent every year between now and 2017, but physical CD sales are in terminal decline, according to an entertainment report released yesterday (via Billboard).

If that looks low to you, you'd be wrong. The global music industry has been shrinking every year since 1999 until 2013. In March we reported on - wait for it - a stellar 0.3 percent, thanks to the rise streaming services as a new source of revenue.

Meanwhile, the report cites a "terminal decline" in CD sales which will never see "any kind of sales increase" again. But that doesn't mean the format will die out, as predicted last year; the CD could still be generating $500 million in the US by 2023 as a nostalgic niche product.

By 2017, the US music industry will generated $10 billion, with digital sales eclipsing physical by $4.6 billion to $1.4 billion.

Of course, this could all change in a heartbeat. While it seems unlikely for physical to win back the hearts of mainstream music fans, new music platforms from Apple and Google this year could transform the digital landscape. Piracy is also in decline, and new streaming services such as Daisy (which has Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor on its team) could give another much-needed boost to the digital sector.

Here's a chart with the current predictions up to 2017 (via MusicAlly). The biggest takeaway: most of the money is in live music. Is your band touring enough?

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

    KingV911
    I like physical media. Please don't stop making them, Music Industry.
    GaryBillington
    Definitely agree. I've never downloaded or streamed, and don't intend to for as long as physically possible. Half the pleasure of owning a large music collection is admiring it on the shelf while you browse through it and select what you want to hear.
    Galfadez
    Never? How do you find new music?
    link no1
    Word of mouth, social media pages, radio, music TV (not MTV), buying a CD that looks cool of a band you've never heard of, film soundtracks, game soundtracks, music magazines, musicians mentioning other bands/musicians in interviews, band shirts, local bands playing covers, clubs, bars...I could do this all day. If the only way you have ever found music is via streaming and downloading I feel sorry for you. You should get out more.
    MetalNick
    Are you one of those guys who goes to complain when a song was in a GTA game and people like it because of that? Because elitism in how you get into music is probably the lamest thing ever. I've bought CDs because they had a cool cover, I've gotten into bands because of GTA, I've bought LP versions of albums because my friend told me to. It's about the music, not how cool you look while getting it.
    Skodward714
    I'm with you. I enjoy the convenience of digital copies of music on my iPod/iTunes so I can switch through songs with ease, but nothing will ever beat having the actual physical copy of an album. You can't put a digital copy on a shelf. It's cool that you can buy a song/album online and have it instantly, but there's something special about receiving a CD or vinyl in the mail.
    FERAL1975
    Explains why there's suddenly so many gigs this year, even down my neck of the woods. Currently I've tickets for The Breeders, Basement Jaxx, NIN, Soundgarden, Depeche Mode, They Might be Giants, Tenacious D and Black Sabbath.... and I've already been to see SBTRKT and Little Comets. I don't think I've seen so many acts in the one year! It's brilliant!
    gbrooks2
    Growth, sure, but it's all the garbage pop acts and hip-hop making the majority of the money.
    METAL_MAN135
    "but it's all the pop acts making the majority of the money." That sounds like every single year since the industry was invented.
    Kueller917
    Hip-hop has its good and bad. Pop is nice sometimes. But yeah the music industry has always been very business for-profit oriented. Even The Beatles' massive fame was due to mostly to marketing.
    CalumCanavan
    It's good that the music industry is growing, but I still like to buy CD's. I like having a collection
    stunly
    Personally I feel acts are charging way too much for tickets, I mean for Black Sabbath in my city it costs 61! This could possibly be because of album sales being low or maybe just the management being greedy and capitalising on the fact that people will pay stupid amounts of money to see these acts.
    Sparda3
    Physical media for life. One day all of these downloads will be deleted and you'll have to pay again to download them. So much for owning what you pay for.
    GaryBillington
    Yeah - I know a few people who sold their old CDs because they'd ripped them all, then lost everything when their PC died & they didn't have a backup.
    HeavyMetalSonic
    If they want CDs to sell, they need to make sure they sound good.
    GaryBillington
    They sound better than mp3s or streamed music.
    JazzDeath
    While it is true that Cd quality > mp3's and current streaming technology, the fact of the matter is, you can get much, much higher quality audio than a CD through digital means. Since you can record albums in 24 bit/192khz, yet CD's only support 16bit depth/44khz sampling rate, you can now distribute much higher audio quality recordings directly to your fans/listeners. Where artists were previously limited by the capabilities of a cd, they are now only limited by the hardware specifications of their clientele's sound cards/media players.
    mysticguitar77
    FLAC or lossless audio sounds better than any CD I've heard although it's a bit overkill IMO. The only downside is the file sizes are huge. If they can figure out a way to limit the file sizes while maintaining the sound quality (if there is such a way), FLAC is the future. The clarity of the audio is insane.
    Kueller917
    Depends on the FLAC. If it's a CD rip it should sound exactly the same as the CD (obviously). FLAC is actually a pretty small lossless compression format already. As the codecs get better and memory continues to get cheaper I could see it as a possibility one day. There's always the issue of losing your downloads which I still find the biggest setback, but like anything on your computer it's always good to have a backup.
    hriday_hazarika
    Funnily enough, CD is lossless audio.
    mysticguitar77
    In theory, maybe, but CD's have standards and the audio quality can only be so good so the audio is compressed and is very "lossy". FLAC files are losslessly compressed in file format. If you were to burn a FLAC file onto a CD, the file would be further compressed to a CD's standards which creates quality losses and therefore ultimately, FLAC > CD, quality-wise.
    hriday_hazarika
    No, you are wrong. They are both lossless, which means the quality is the same. The only quality difference is in your mind, aka the placebo effect. If you burn a FLAC file to a CD, there will be no "further compression". The FLAC file will be read by any optical drive for what it is: a FLAC file.
    SOAD94
    But according to NME, vinyl sales have increased by 78%.
    JazzDeath
    Since vinyls have a very unique sonic property to them (created by the analog medium on which the music is engraved, so to speak), and CD's are just a digital copy to the file you will get on your computer (if the quality is the same), it's only logical that enthusiasts for vinyls and those who enjoy collecting physical media continue to buy them, compared to CD's where there's absolutely nothing to gain from listening to a cd compared to a digital FLAC rip of the same album. Hard drives are so huge now, and internet speeds so fast, that downloading cd quality files isn't an issue at all for an enthusiast anymore. Finding high quality vinyl rips, on the other hand, is much harder and doesn't sound the same, since it has to be converted.
    CollyOBrien
    I just had my first Netflix experience last night (I don't know why I wouldn't accept it ), it seems like streaming is the future, cheap & handy. But I still can't stand listening to music through computer speakers!
    diddyman99
    As much as it is cheap and easy, I love a nice physical copy of what I'm buying, for example, owning QOTSA's new record in the flesh is awesome!
    MetalNick
    You could buy some good speakers, an audio amp and hook that up. It's how I've been rolling for years, no harshness, EQing, etc.
    --ESTRANGED--
    I think music in general is just ****ing huge right now. i know that might sound retarded, but think about it. the whole EDM thing is massive, people are going batshit insane for it, there's a huge influx of pop acts, boy bands and so on, "guitar music" seems to be getting more popular (as in pop tracks based around a guitar, NOT rock or metal) - i dont really ever remember it being like this, not in my lifetime anyway. i for one welcome this news.
    Galfadez
    You're right. Music is amazing at the moment. Obviously the metal world isn't judging by the comments I see every time I come on UG. But in general, music is bigger and better than it's ever been. I have a few theories as to why, most containing the internet, technology and Thom Yorke haha
    --ESTRANGED--
    oh and look at us, joining the exclusive Negavote club. Are people THAT retarded? probably because we mentioned rock/metal isnt doing that well right now. ****ers living in the 80s still. or just angsty 14 year old virgins pissed that their favourite wank tunes arent as br0000talzzzz!!1111!1 as they think. get over yourselves guys. what i said is 100% true.