Are CDs Dead?

May 14, 2019     / / / / / / /

Is the Future of CD’s Once Again in Dire Straits?

The compact disc (CD) first hit the market in 1982…and when it did, it completely revolutionized the music industry. The concept of the CD started way back in 1965, when James Russell (the most attributed inventor) envisioned something that could store and replay music without need for physical contact between the player and the product, as is necessary with vinyl records.

The initial launch of the CD included 20 albums, but the most memorable bestselling album was Brothers in Arms by the Dire Straits. As reported by The Guardian, this album ushered in the CD era after being the first to beat vinyl records by selling over one million copies. By 1988, CD sales had had topped those of vinyl, and in 1991 they outpaced cassette sales.

In the 90s, the CD became the money maker of the music industry. People were enjoying high quality digital music, and the music labels were making money.

The CD era looked like it was going to dominate forever…until digital streaming came along and disrupted the enormous success of the CD. Digital streaming allows music lovers to acquire the same albums in less time, and for a lot less money.

Several big questions arise:

  • Will they stop making CDs? Or, more aptly put, Are CDs dead? Probably not. Best Buy and Target recently decided to selling CDs in their stores, due to the declining sales; this is not indicative of other retail outlets, however. RIAA recently released a report indicating that CD sales have dropped by 46.9%, but as it turns out, the report was actually referring to shipment of CDs. Actual sales indicate a different story, with a total of 34.8 million CDs sold for the second quarter ending June 29, 2018.


  • Will CDs come back? In 2018, music streaming actually dropped by 21.4%, more than the 19.7% drop in CD sales. This paints a completely different picture about the future of the CD. People want quality and music that will last a long time, and with a CD, they can get that.


  • Do CDs last forever? As many of us know, no—they do not last forever…but they last for a long time. Extensive research by the Library of Congress has shown that CDs can last for decades when well taken care of.


  • Are CDs better than streaming? If you want quality that will make you feel like you have pulled up a chair next to your favourite artist in a studio, then yes, a CD is better than streaming. CDs provide 96 kHZ/24 bit music, while online streaming is at 44 kHz/16 bit. The only streaming platform that offers CD quality music is Tidal. Audiophiles and pundits alike claim online streaming doesn’t provide the same quality of music that CDs do, which is why many people who appreciate that higher quality are still into CDs. A Star is Born and Eminem’s Kamikaze—both debuting as CDs—were quickly sold out even before they hit the stores.

The mighty CD may have fallen significantly, but it still has a big place in the music industry.