Downloads are big but we're not abandoning CDs

Picture of a stack of CDsFor all the music and technology industries' hype about downloading music you might think the CD was about to go the way of the VHS tape. It's not though. A report from eMusic and independent label body AIM says 80% of us are still very much attached to our physical copies of our music and we like to buy downloads rather than stream - 93% of us said ownership made us feel secure.
The research says that although 70% of people do regularly download and listen to "stored" music, an impressive 80% still buy and listen to physical CDs. Clearly there's huge overlap - very few people are religiously attached to one format or the other.


The figures dip severely when you look at streaming services like Spotify, Napster and others. Streaming means playing from someone else's computer often miles away, so it's like the contrast between either buying a DVD or download and watching it on one of the TV catch-up services. The report's writers suggest this means people still like to own their music even when they can't physically hold it.

This is borne out by the fact that 87% of respondents said they would not give up owning music in favour of streaming it.

Jon Collins, director of analyst company Inter Orbis, which studies the impact of the digital world on culture and daily lives, believes this is a classic example of a new technology adding to rather than replacing an old one. CDs, he says, have not been made obsolete by downloads.

"With a physical disc you are buying a product, whereas with a download you are only buying a license - as anyone who has experienced the frustration of trying to listen to a purchase on another device, or in a different country, will recognise," he says. "Now the digital model is firmly established, perhaps that's why the market for physical CD purchases only dropped a few percentage points last year?
"Meanwhile we shouldn't under-estimate the importance of tangible items. It's ironic that even as the role of the physical CD is questioned, many bands look to merchandise as a significant revenue stream; we've also seen a major upswing in how CD packaging has evolved over the past few years with booklets, box sets, exclusive artwork, bonus tracks and so on. What is a CD anyway, but the content-carrying element of the merchandise portfolio?"
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