CDs, Streaming and the Future of Music: Saying good-bye to one format while embracing another

The days of walking into a Best Buy store to see rows and rows of CDs of music front and center are over. This month the nationwide retailer announced it will drastically scale back sales of CDs, an announcement which made waves in the music world. Some people reacted in shock, seeing this as a harbinger of the demise of the format; the end of an era. And maybe it is, but not because of Best Buy’s decision.

Best Buy’s move to phase out CD sales is purely a business decision, and shouldn’t be unexpected to anyone in the music world who has followed the trends of music formats. Sales of CDs have been plummeting since 2000, when digital music began to take hold. In 2015, sales of digital music outpaced CD sales, and then in 2017 the downloads were pushed out of the number one spot as streaming sales took over.

The rise and fall of the CD is just another storyline in the many stories that have unfolded over the years in the music industry. Vinyl records, 8-track tapes and cassettes all had their glory  days and are now virtually extinct, expect for vinyl. This format is seeing a slight resurgence as  people look to some “authentic” forms of listening to music as a way to differentiate from the digital experience.

While CDs might be phasing out, it’s not time to play Taps for this format just yet. Madison Records continues to produce a small number of CDs for all of our artists in addition to  offereing downloads and streaming options. “CDs are still necessary for promotional purposes for radio and press, and they’re also good to sell at shows and have available for artists to  sign,” says Tanner Hendon. “For whatever reason, some people still like to have CDs. I think it  gives them something to see and touch, a tangible vibe from the artist.”

The evolution of music formats is interesting to watch, and in many ways is a good thing for  the music industry. Digital downloads and streaming options have helped make music the background to our everyday lives. It’s easier than ever to listen to music while working out, waiting for an appointment, or even doing chores around the house.

As CDs phase out, Madison Records and other studios will continue to find new and creative ways to introduce the public to talented new artists and new works from old favorites. And no matter what format people choose to listen to, whether it’s cassette tape, record, CD or streaming, live performances have always been and will continue to be the core of the music industry.


Tanner Hendon