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Music labels secretly planning to phase-out CDs?

by Steven Williamson on 7 November 2011, 09:28

Tags: HMV

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With digital downloading becoming increasingly popular among the masses of switched-on Internet users, the death of the CD format is inevitable, isn't it?

The convenience and low cost of downloading music, as well as the ability to play music files on a range of devices, has meant revenue from the sale of physical discs has been dropping for many years. However, reports suggest that 1 million CDs are still sold in the US each week, suggesting that there’s still a market out there of people who want to buy hard copies of music by their favourite artists.

Nonetheless, Side Line Music Magazine claims that it has uncovered quite a scoop – that the world’s major music labels, including Sony, Universal and EMI, are planning to switch to using digital download services completely by the end of 2012.

“The only CD-formats that will be left over will be the limited edition ones, which will of course not be available for every artist,” claims the site, who says it was “approached by several people working with major labels.” “The distribution model for these remaining CD releases would be primarily Amazon which is already the biggest CD retailer worldwide anyhow.”

Premium headphone brands and other products may eclipse music sales at HMV

Audio CDs have been commercially available since October 1982, and by 2007 200 billion CDs were reported to have been sold worldwide. In more recent times, however, with the popularity of downloading via the internet and the introduction of flash drives and devices such as the iPod, sales of physical discs have been dropping on a yearly basis.

UK retailer HMV appears to have been bracing itself over the past couple of years for the end of the CD, becoming increasingly focused on selling headphones, which have risen hugely in popularity, as well as tablets, mp3 players and smartphones.

Are we really ready for the end of the CD just yet? Will record labels ever stop producing hard copies?

We’re not convinced that this is going to happen for a while yet, not while CDs are still continuing to sell - albeit not in as huge quantities as before. Come to think about it though, we can't even remember the last we bought a CD.

HEXUS Forums :: 45 Comments

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This is a secret? If anything, it's amazing CDs have lasted this long, if it weren't for the big label's decade long fight against online distribution this surely would have become commonplace years ago.
Terrible news. Now we can get overpriced low bitrate digital downloads and if you want the decent quality,ie,ones in lossless formats you end up paying more anyway. The sad thing is that CD is still better quality than all of them and is usually cheaper and you get a physical media too. This is why it has lasted.

Crap news for people like me who actually have half decent audio equipment. With higher speed internet now more common how about companies offering the full sized CD,DVD Audio and SACD tracks as downloads at the same price as the lower quality encodes?? Give some of us a choice as we can encode them as we feel fit or play them at full bitrate?? Of course not as the ***** if they offer it will do so as a “premium service” at a premium price. Now they have found addtional ways of segmenting the market. Just ****ing great!

As usual the race to the bottom is continuing and now the record companies have found a way to make even more money by selling lower quality audio. A backwards step.
CAT: Just demand FLAC.
CAT: Just demand FLAC.

FLAC is not popular though and most of the companies use MP3 which is not even the best encoding algorithm but the most common. The iTunes tracks use AAC which is much better at the same bitrate however last time I checked iTunes does not use Apple lossless.

The cost per album is still rubbish for most of theses stores(unless you get an album on a special deal) and in many cases is comparable to a CD or even worse. You get lower quality encodes and no physical media. This means if you want to use a CD player you need to convert the files and then burn them to a CD which costs additional time and money. On top of writeable CDs by their very nature tend to have a lower physical lifespan than most modern pressed CDs and decent writeable CDs cost more. So in the end for me downloads in the long run are still expensive. Downloads ATM are great for casual listeners. The only reason companies are shifting to downloads is since the fixed costs for hosting are much lower now and the fixed costs for selling CDs are now more than the lower quality stuff most online stores are now selling.

On top of this I actually like owning some of my CDs TBH as quite a few have really nice album work on the CD too(plus album notes). Plonking a burned CD into a reasonable CD player is a bit meh TBH. It looks like costs for pressed CDs are going to increase quite a bit.

However,at least a full CD download would mean we got at least get the same quality as before. On top of this people like me can at least choose the method we want to encode for computer or media server use. In fact I would like even higher quality encodes based on the master tapes to be released. I don't see why even a 2GB to 3GB file size should be an issue.
We’re not convinced that this is going to happen for a while yet, not while CDs are still continuing to sell - albeit not in as huge quantities as before. Come to think about it though, we can't even remember the last we bought a CD.
In my case, I can. Last Monday (i.e. a week ago) I bought a 3 disk hybrid set (2 normal CD's plus one that you had to download tracks and burn yourself) of Alice Cooper's current tour. And on Saturday I got three of the remastered Pink Floyd albums plus Johnny Cash's last album. (yes, I know, weird taste in music!)

Call me “Mr Cynical”, but when the labels say “we're planning to phase out CD's in favour of downloads”, I'm not convinced that they mean unprotected MP3's, AAC's, OGG's, etc. It doesn't take much of a stretch to remember the cries from the labels that “digital downloads = piracy”. So, personally I'd still prefer - at least for the main bands I follow - to have that shiny plastic circle. On the other hand stuff I'm just trying out I'm more than happy to have on download only.

I'll grudgingly admit that I'm probably just an old geezer living in the past - not up to date with all this MusicCloud, Spotify, need-it-right-this-second style of music consumption. :yucky:

As to HMV phasing out CD's - I remain unsurprised. Apart from the “3 for £10” type deals I've found HMV to be increasingly expensive. E.g. Pink Floyd's “The Wall” is about £16 there, but Amazon'll do it for £12. Speaking of “The Wall” - nice to see that the premium for going for physical media is only 48p on Amazon - a levy I'd be happy to pay.