The Story of why Streaming has killed the CD

So a little over three years ago I got the keys to my first house, picture then scene…. There was so much mould I think the growing black organisms had formed a workers union and were demanding better facilities and the once beige walls now resembled baby sick. I had very little furniture let alone a CD player or turntable but I did have my iPad with enough data to last till the new internet provider kicked in. So I bought some heavy duty one coat cover all paint and rollers, stuck Spotify on the Ipad and got stuck in. Music has always been an integral part of my life both on a personal and professional level, it was probably the first time since I was 15 that I didn’t own a CD player and in all honestly I didn’t miss it one bit.

My new home was filled with music, I painted and papered walls to the sounds of The Vaccines, I put together flat pack furniture as The Beatles sang about Penny Lane and Eleanor Rigby and I put away new Ikea plates to Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald. My once treasured CDs that I always kept in strict alphabetical and release date order were placed in their neatly packed box at the bottom of the spare room cupboard and remained there for the next two years until I handed about 90% of them to a charity shop.

I listen to Spotify on my phone through massive headphones whenever I have to brave public transport as I love music and don’t like the public, I also have it on constantly while out running to both pace me and break up the boredom on a ten-mile run. I have the iPad on in the kitchen and tend to cook to The Virginmarys and Blinders and have You Tube on my fancy pants smart TV that even has its own YouTube button. I still buy vinyl, which is reserved for limited-edition releases of my favourite artists and are stacked neatly on a bookcase but never played, but apart from the odd purchase of friends’ CDs at a gig I have not bought a CD since.

So for the history buff out there, here’s the basic back story, the compact disc format goes right back to 1982, it was co-developed by Philips and Sony and quickly became the handy, go-to music format, as it was smaller and more durable and portable than vinyl albums. The iconic piece of tech the Sony Discman hit the shelves in the year 2000 and was considered the ultimate in cool for music lovers on the go. The popularity of CDs continued to grow and reached 30 billion discs worldwide sales by 2004, jumping into 200 billion by 2007. Shuffle forward to 2019 and CDs we have a very different story or sales figures.

For the radio show I present I still regularly get sent music but now bands facebook message me YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud links. I get constant notifications that I’m being tagged in new videos, which for the record gets kinda annoying, I like to fill my wall with Star Wars memes and Instagram pics of my cat behaving like a weirdo and my awful attempts at Gordan Ramsey cook book recipes. In my student music press days CDs were regularly posted to me and handed to me on nights out, even when I wasn’t at gigs and was mid curry on a disastrous date and I have to admit the lacks of CDs in my life is much easier. I still don’t own a CD player as I just never got round to buying one and I appreciate the ease with which I can now consume music digitally and never ending choice I now have at my disposal for free. What can I say clearly I’m cheap. I also do radio plugging for bands and labels and only ever send EPKs with links, MP3s or Wavs. I do not own CDs by the majority or artists I work with as very few independent bands release singles physically.

But artists are not benefiting from the surge in streaming. The stats on what Spotify and other services pay musicians is horrendous. Of the most popular UK streaming sites Apple Music boasts the highest with a stingy $0.00735 per stream, Spotify is next at $0.00437, then Amazon $0.00402 and Youtube  is bring up the diabolical rear at $0.00069. An artist would need almost 8000 stream a month to early minimum wage, so you might want to think about which music service you use if you are more ethically inclined and want to support artists more. Also you can buy the gig tickets and the merch if you want to support and financially help your favourite bands be able to carry on making music.

Also as we turn our back on full albums in favour of Spotify playlists are we missing out on a vital part of the story the artist is trying to tell us? Before the invasion of the digital age the sequencing of tracks on an album an was art in itself as an album had a story, it had a beginning and ending, it had planned changes of pace and mood. It would seem music consumers agreed they were missing out as while digital down loads account for over half of all sales, vinyl sales continue to rise again while CD sales dropped by 12% thanks to the mid-thirties crowd wanting to revisit their lost youth and bearded Hipsters believing vinyl had a more authentic sound led to 4.1m vinyl albums being purchased in the UK.

Or maybe I’m just an out of date touch cynic who deep down believes romance died when your school playground crush stopped making you mix tape from tracks recorded from the radio and handed you a mix CD instead, which then evolved into the zero effort link to a Spotify playlist which will never remotely make me swoon. So enjoy your CD collections folks as me thinks unlike beards and food served on anything but a plate, they won’t be around for much longer.