Streaming brings about the end of CDs

Natasha Lynch

Everyone remembers buying their first CD, scanning the aisles for their favourite singer’s or band’s newest release. There was nothing like holding the first physical case wrapped in cellophane, eagerly waiting to press play on the stereo and listen to it on repeat. 

That’s not to say that CDs are now relics of the past, but are they really something of the future? The CD or ‘compact disc’ grabbed the world’s attention in 1981 when ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’ was the first pop album pressed to one. The first ever commercially produced CD was Claudio Arrau’s 1979 recording of Chopin Waltzes.

Before the CD came the cassette tape, which was first introduced in the early 60’s and was developed by Phillips. The successor to vinyl records created an audio revolution, allowing people to listen to their favourite songs as well as recording their own creations.

When Sony released the Walkman in the 80’s there was a surge in sales of cassette tapes as people could now listen to their music on the go. Similarly, with the release of Sony’s Discman (who’s name later changed to Walkman too) in 1984 the popularity of CDs skyrocketed.

However, CDs have been declining in sales ever since 2003, when 730 million CDs were sold that year alone in the US. Nevertheless, consumer demand is still there as today the sales are reaching over 100 million a year, according to

A study by YouGov in 2018 revealed that more than half of CD buyers and listeners in the UK are over the age of 55. Of those surveyed, 30 per cent said CDs are an old fashioned way to access music, with only 10 per cent of 25-34 year olds consuming music through CD’s. shared a poll online in 2014 asking readers when they bought their last CD. Out of 6,032 people who voted, just under one third said they couldn’t remember.

Digital music streaming platforms started making an appearance in 1999 when Napster was founded. It shared audio in MP3 format, allowing users to share music with each other across the globe.

Nine years later the world’s cornerstone to streaming music, Spotify, entered the market by launching in several European countries.

As of September 2020 Spotify has 144 million subscribers and 320 million monthly active users. The platform is known for its hugely extensive range of artists, music and podcasts and its feature of creating specific playlists for individual users based on their music taste.

The digital music era seems permanent considering society’s dependency and increased usage of streaming services. It’s fair to say that CDs will continue being sold with the current steady demand, but who knows if this will still be the case 20 years from now.

Natasha Lynch

Image credit: Kevin Laminto