February 27, 2018

The new life of the CD

Fast Company -As listeners flock to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, the CD’s decline isn’t slowing down. Earlier this month, Billboard reported that Best Buy will stop selling CDs in stores this summer, and that Target only wants to pay distributors for the CDs it actually sells. Some observers saw the news as a death blow to a fading format.

Yet it’s hard to reconcile that gloomy outlook with what’s happening in the indie music world, where the CD is still thriving. Earlier this week, the online music store Bandcamp reported 18% year-over-year growth in CD sales for 2017, up from 14% growth in 2016.

Atomic Disc, a Portland-based CD manufacturing shop that has served more than 13,000 clients, isn’t seeing any slowdown, either. Silver Sorensen, Atomic’s co-owner, says overall revenue has been growing by about 30% per year, and that CDs make up roughly 90% of the shop’s earnings.

It turns out that even in the age of streaming audio, the CD still has value, especially for indie artists that want to offer something tangible to their fans. While that also helps explain the resurgence of vinyl albums, CDs are still easier to produce, cheaper to buy, and more profitable to sell than vinyl. They also sound objectively better.

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