The Rise and Fall of the Compact Disc
The compact disc was introduced in 1982 and heralded as the first commercially available prerecorded digital audio format. Initially, sales were slow, but by 1985 sales started to grow rapidly. In 1988 CD sales surpassed vinyl LPs, and by 1989 they outsold prerecorded music cassette tapes for the first time ever — thus becoming the most popular audio format. CD sales continued to grow until they peaked in 2002.
In 2003 CD sales began to decline and have been rapidly falling ever since (it’s no coincidence that the original iPod was released in 2001). In the United States, CD sales plummeted by 11.6% in 2015 and 18.5% in 2016. In fact, the popularity of CDs has dropped so much that by 2017, CD sales had reached the same level as 1985!
The Rise of MP3 Players and Streaming Services
The rise of digital downloads and streaming services is mostly to blame, with digital downloads rising steadily since 2001. Streaming services (such as Spotify) have now taken over the top spot — outselling digital downloads and CDs in 2016, and they continue to grow.
An Obsolete Format
A decade ago, CD players were commonplace in most home entertainment centers. Nowadays, CD players are increasingly harder to find as home entertainment centers have almost completely disappeared in exchange for smart-TVs and Bluetooth® sound bars. CD players also used to be standard equipment in most cars — just as the cassette had been a decade earlier. But now, many new cars no longer have CD players. Manufacturers have replaced the aging CD player with touch-screen media centers that offer streaming services, hands-free Bluetooth® and can play digital files from portable USB drives.
Over the years, CD sections in stores have been shrinking as less and less people buy CDs. In January of 2018, Best Buy announced that they will stop selling CDs, and Target may be following suit. With the rise of smart phones that can hold thousands of songs, CDs have gone the way of audio cassettes and 8-tracks and have become obsolete.