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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The State of CDs: Some Gloom, But Definitely No Doom

In early 2010, CVS Midwest Tape News & Views reported that according to Nielsen SoundScan in 2009 CDs accounted for 78.9% of all albums sold, while digital albums only made up 20.4% of sales.¹ We cited several reasons why consumers—and therefore library patrons—still prefer physical albums over digital, including lyric booklets, significantly higher quality audio, and ability to play in standard car stereos.

During the summer of 2010, we reported on Freegal, discussing its many drawbacks and why it isn’t the right digital music solution for libraries.² Later that summer, we highlighted several musicians not yet available on iTunes and their reason for resisting the digital market.³

All of these articles highlighted the staying power of the physical disc. Now, on the heels of two studies that report DVDs’ continued market dominance, USA Today reports that CDs are here to stay according to Nielsen SoundScan. While the study does show that CDs were down in 2010 and downloads were up, “consumers still spend more on CDs than downloads, and overall music sales are up 1.6% this year” thus far.⁴

More importantly, the study reports that while music fans may download singles, they still purchase physical CDs: "They want the whole package, "says Russ Crupnick, president of research at NPD Entertainment.⁴
Additionally, analysts say that while CD sales aren’t what they once were, the compact disc isn’t going anywhere: "‘CDs are going to be around for a long time,’ says Dave Bakula, a senior vice president of Nielsen… ‘It's the last physical music format, and there's unlikely to be a replacement. For people who want to own the physical version, the CD is it.’" ⁴

Even though consumers are still purchasing physical discs, there are significantly fewer music stores, and big box stores are now carrying mostly top 20 hits rather than classic, indie, or niche titles. That’s where libraries come in. Just as more and more people are turning to libraries for DVDs in the wake of rental store closures, consumers are also turning to libraries for their music needs.

As reported in a recent article about Wicomico Public Library, they’ve “filled a void left by the closure of thousands of independent and chain music stores during the past decade.” Additionally, they’ve found that patrons love being able to experience new music and listen to entire albums they may have never discovered if they hadn’t visited the library. The success of Wicomico’s music collection shows in their circulation stats: “CDs were checked out nearly 23,000 times last year,” according to the article.

What do you think of the recent USA Today article? Is your library sharing experiences similar to that of Wicomico? Do you find more patrons turning to your music collection in the wake of retail closures?

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