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Everybody knows the music industry has undergone monumental change in the past 30 years. How much change? This handy GIF from Digital Music News, which breaks down revenue according to medium (adjusted for inflation) will show you.

We constantly hear about the CD’s enduring sales power, but who is buying all those?

Comments (71)
  1. I regularly and unashamedly buy CD’s

  2. Huh, yeah. Nice gif, kid.
    *i crack open a new tab with a very complicated 8 key shortcut I’ve obviously made myself*

  3. I buy CDs when they don’t have a vinyl copy.

    I bought Swans & Sun Kil Moon on CD, but not vinyl. Don’t really care to have those on vinyl, but I definitely wanted to hear them.

    Normally though, I’ll just get a 100 pack of CD-Rs and make my own CDs. Because I learned how to do that in middle school and still think it’s cool. Then I get to toss them around and be like, “Fuck it! I’ll make another one!” It makes me feel alive.

    On that note, need to check in with my record store about FKA twigs on vinyl. Because THAT’S an album you get on vinyl. That cover art deserves to be large and Charles in charge.

    • Gotta get that Swans vinyl, RJC. Damn.

      • My hesitation is from when I bought “The Seer” on vinyl: 3 LPs, not in sequence, some songs cut in half. It was a cluster and a chore to mix into sequence.

        You guys know I’m a sequencing junkie. My CD copy of “The Seer” got WAY more play than my vinyl copy. So I have a tough time throwing down 30-40 bucks for a record I know I’m just going to shelve. I’m sure I’ll buy it eventually, it just hasn’t been a priority.

    • The cover art looks great on a vinyl, but I was dissappointed to find the sleeve to be simple cardboard with nothing else. Or maybe that was just my local retailer’s version..?

    • Sun Kil Moon on vinyl is great if you happen to be one of the people who gets in on the first few hours of an album going up for sale on Calo Verde’s site. Otherwise, be prepared to spend 100 bucks on a record.

      Or in the case of Ghosts of the Great Highway, 300+. Bums me out that I’ll probably never own that.

  4. I buy CD if the LP version is unavailable/overpriced/poorly-made. I also still buy all my hip hop on CD because it’s what I like to listen to in the car.

    The idea of spending money on a file is still mind-boggling to me.

    • Ha — I buy iTunes all the time.

      • Obviously I know I’m in a minority on that point, but it still surprises me. I’m happily trapped in a luddite mentality of only spending money on stuff I can hold.

        I actually have bought digital files before, but pretty much always regretted it and wished I had hard copy.

        • I’m the same. I feel like I need tangible proof of purchase. I buy digital when I can’t find a physical copy anywhere, or if it’s an artist or album I’d just like to “check out” beyond a casual interest (but usually if I’m just casually “checking out” that’s all up to Spotify).

          I like collecting in general though. Books, CD’s, what have you. I like the trophy and shrine to the art I love.

    • “I also still buy all my hip hop on CD because it’s what I like to listen to in the car.”

      Amen to this.

      What is it about listening to hip-hop in the car that just makes it BETTER??

      • Hip hop is better in the car for so many reasons, but here are a just a few. . .

        1.) the sound kind of surrounds and envelops you and allows for a visceral experience that the home/headphone experience doesn’t allow
        2.) the need to actually focus on driving distracts from the god awful lyrics (in many cases)
        3.) you can mean-mug small children and old ladies, even if you’re white (especially if you’re white). . .

    • I normally do MP3s if it’s the most economically feasible option (a REALLY good Amazon sale, imports (Adult Jazz ran me $9 on MP3, opposed to the $20+ I’d spend on a CD). And yeah, I buy most Hip-Hop on CD. I have a couple classics on vinyl, but I don’t think it’s a genre that lends itself to vinyl particularly well.

    • “The idea of spending money on a file is still mind-boggling to me.”

      But that’s what a CD is — a bundle of files on a worthless piece of plastic instead of on your hard drive (they are the same thing).

  5. R.I.P. cassingle.

  6. Why buy anything when you can just tape stuff off the radio?

  7. Seeing CDs kinda makes me sad, I don’t know why… They’re just so worthless.

    5 years ago I considered selling all my CDs on ebay for 10 bucks each but I stopped after like 3 because I felt sorry for the people buying them

  8. Why do they keep mentioning Vinyl Single, but leave out Vinyl Album?

  9. paid subscriptions starting at nearly nothing and gets to 9% over a few years, that’s a big trend I think

  10. soulseek

  11. vinyl=home
    cassettes=anywhere I can take my little radio, park, work,etc.

    (this is how I justify to myself buying all of them)

  12. Just took a long road trip and listened to my whole collection of mix cds and old stuff from the late 90′s. Happy I hung onto everything. The Goo Goo Dolls have never sounded so good.

  13. The thing about vinyl is that you need a turntable you can rely on. I’ve got a stack of beautiful LPs sitting unplayed because my Dual is broken and I can’t figure out how to fix it. :(

  14. Odd to equal the music industry to recorded music only. What about live shows and concerts?

  15. I still buy CDs all the time, but I buy vinyl almost as regularly again now too. Cassettes seem ridiculous to be making a comeback of any kind, but I understand them being a “specialty” item, and I even bought the last Tobacco album on CD, vinyl and cassette.

    There was a time when people asked why anyone bothered buying vinyl when turntables weren’t everywhere again, whereas now you can find cheap, okay turntables rather easily, and good ones are a little less expensive than they used to be. I don’t believe that will happen with cassettes though. Seriously, the MP3 is the equivalent of the cassette in the 90s, at least in terms of accessibility. And I buy digital too, but if it isn’t lossless I’d rather hunt down the CD or vinyl.

    Oh, and in response to Mads’ comment, yeah, live shows should now be considered a source of revenue, though the music industry never looked at them as something they profited from, and it mostly isn’t something they profit from still. It’s for the bands and their promoters, etc., unless you’re in one of those silly 360 deals, and I can’t see how they benefit anyone other than Devo.

  16. I still go on the occasional CD buying spree at Princeton Record Exchange or Vintage Vinyl in NJ. I like the combo of music/art from a given band. Having a better grasp of where the songwriter was at during the creative process adds to the experience. Unfortunately, people these days could care less about art….

  17. I used to buy CDs all the time. One of my buddies will probably buy CDs as long as they are a format that can be purchased, but he’s a strange 90s fetishist.

    On an unrelated note, a GIF of a pie graph is mesmerizing, but I’ll stick with the individual images for now. Maybe print them off and plaster my wall with them to be extra creepy. Invite people over to my place to show them my panoply proving that the CD single has always been underrated. It’s no monkey drinking its own pee, is what I’m saying.

  18. CDs or vinyl only. If you have a digital only release, It won’t be bought by me.

  19. i only buy cds

  20. I was at Amoeba in Berkeley last weekend. I hadn’t been there in a couple years. They have an ENORMOUS $1.99/each CD section. AND it’s buy 3 get one free so they are actually $1.50/each. Here’s an exact copy of the text messages between me and my girlfriend…….

    Me – “I’ve got 28 CD’s I want from the $1.99 bin”
    Her – “That’s not that bad. I thought it was gonna be so much worse”
    Me – “I’m about to move to the “C’s”
    Her – “ooooooooohhhhhhhh, ouch”

    For the record I only purchased about 60. Which I’m calling “growth”

    My 17 year old daughter caught the music geek bug from me. She only listens to 180 gram vinyl. She will not listen to CD’s or MP3′s. I asked her if she thought that was a big excessive. She said “When I listen to somebody’s art I give it all of my attention. I’m not into this half assed”. I swear to you a little tear formed in my eye. She is AWESOME.

  21. I’m surprised a lot of people on here still buy CDs.

    I don’t even an own an optical drive. 2 years without one. Haven’t purchased a CD, or a DVD in over 6 years.

    Amazon, or, as I keep telling bands to do, Bandcamp is where I buy all my music.

    • Marco…..I’m willing to bet this is an age thing. I’m in my late 40′s. I dealt with moving from vinyl to cassettes to CD’s. Moving from CD’s to a non physical music format is just too much for me to emotionally deal with.
      It’s hard to describe what it used to be like “back when I was a kid, you damn youngsters!!!” Buying a new ALBUM was a big deal. The tri fold out, the album art, the lyrics, the thank you’s, the list of guest musicians all listed. It was a huge deal and it carried weight, both physically and emotionally.

  22. I get this report called Soundcan and every week I post the weekly totals of sales by percentage on my blog and for the life of me I’m trying to figure out how, accoding to Neilson/Soundscan, with CD’s are 52% of sales at the mid-way point that this fact is being dismissed when simple math and some critical thinking show otherwize.

    Just because you don’t do it doesn’t mean the main consumers of it don’t do something different.

  23. Spotify at 10 bucks a month cannot be beat – I only recently took the plunge when CDs and digital downloads consistently started hitting 8-10 bucks on amazon and 7 digital . I do not plan to go back. Streaming at 320 is close enough to cd quality for me and he ability to DL to your phone or iPad and play without using data makes it all work. Furthermore, regarding quality, I am no major computer audiophile, but as I understand in the spotify codec (and those used by other streaming services) are more efficient than mp3 so quality may be even higher than an amazon digital DL

    I am like a kid in a candy store listening to so much music that did not quite warrant a purchase before…

    • I moved from Vinyl to Cassettes, to CD’s to Soulseek… Spotify is the end all for most of my listening needs beyond live shows and my vinyl post-purist purchases. Kid in a candy store is right!

  24. I still buy CD’s because I like owning albums in a physical/tangible format. Vinyl is too expensive for me to buy on a consistent basis. I find I’m more likely to give a good album the listening time it deserves when I have it on CD. I use Spotify too but I can’t think of what I want to listen to half time because the choices are overwhelming. Also, CD’s are much more convenient in the car when you can just pop one in and go instead of fiddling with your phone and crashing your car. It’s a lot easier to change CD’s at a stoplight than it is to go digging through menus on your iPod or phone.

    • I also think that the whole digital downloads/streaming revolution will hurt bands in the long term as far as longevity goes. I think when people actually own an album in a physical format that they paid for there is more value ascribed to it. It’s something you can go back to. I can walk up to my shelf of CD’s and pick something great to listen to and keep coming back to it for years to come. I can discover something in my collection that I’ve forgotten about and it becomes new to me once again.

      If you can just download it for free or stream it it’s more of a “right-now” thing. Once it gets buried among all your other mp3′s or the cluttered morass of a streaming service like spotify it’s kind of lost down the rabbit-hole. Out of sight, out of mind. Will you really keep coming back to it? Will you even remember to?

      If I were to take the viewpoint of an artist, I would much rather my fans own a physical CD of my work than to just have it available online for streaming and to be fighting for bandwith and “listener real-estate” with whatever the newest flash in the pan that has everyone’s attention is.

      I feel like it has made music really a disposable commodity. It has lost the value that it really deserves. Now I’m not saying the value of it was the $16.98 overpriced CD at Sam Goody in the 90′s, but I feel like the death of physical formats for music makes music less important somehow.

      • Completely agree. And a vinyl copy holds even more “value”. I like physically looking at the packaging et al. I buy from Amazon and use streaming services but ultimately I will always buy more actual copies.

        • Indeed. It has made music a much more singles driven market. That’s fine for most of the disposable pop music that doesn’t have much to say in the first place. But are we really going to have another R.E.M, another Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Nirvana etc. in a singles driven market? Those are just a few examples of bands who had something bigger to say. Something that
          deserved the full-length medium of an album. The whole “cherry-pick” mentality of only downloading a single is to me the equivalent of tearing one page out of a book. You don’t get the whole story. The whole experience of buying an album/CD was that you had the full package as the artist intended. The artwork, photos, lyrics. I still see that as an experience that has value even though the world is telling me it doesn’t.

  25. I don’t understand why more artists don’t just sell mp3 files, either on Bandcamp or on their own website. I don’t want them tied to Spotify, iTunes, Google, or Amazon or any other third party software. I just want a zip file full of mp3s that I can play using any media player I want.

    Just yesterday I was trying to buy the new Trash Talk album. Their website only offers vinyl and iTunes, the Odd Future website only offers CD. This is not an album I need to own on vinyl, and I have no use for CDs. Now instead of giving them money, which I wanted to do, I’ve downloaded the album.

  26. I love how everything comes full circle. My 17 year old daughter buys tons of vinyl. And by “My 17 year old daughter buys tons of vinyl” I mean I buy my 17 year old daughter tons of vinyl. She gets it. She will never stop buying physical copies of records. And that makes me deliriously happy. We have to drive over an hour to the nearest actual “record” store. She has to feel them and touch them before purchasing. So Amazon and other online suppliers simply will not work. Mind you, she never really gave a shit about what I listened to. She’s just on her own personal musical journey and it is a BLAST to watch. The last time we took our pilgrimage to the record store she had it narrrowed down to these albums

    The Moon and Antantartica – Modest Mouse
    Children has the Right to Children – Boards of Canada
    Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
    Apologies to The Queen Mary – Wolf Parade
    Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights

    She wanted me to help her cull it down to two of ‘em. Cuz I had told her she had a $50.00 limit on this trip for records. I told her “Z, I couldn’t be prouder of you right now than if you actually got decent grades”

    And bought ‘em all.

  27. typo on above…..*music has the right to children

  28. Vinyl for me always!! Even in the 1980′s when people bought cassettes, I stuck with vinyl. In the 1990′s when CD’s were huge, I always looked for (usually imported) vinyl. In the new millennium, I’m very happy to see this consistent uptrend in vinyl LP sales! I am happy they also provide the digital download with the LP to easily upload to the i-phone, iMac. Let’s hope they bring the vinyl 12″ and 7′ back too!!! it’s very possible

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