This is a trend I’ve posted and commented on here on the blog a few times in the past but now it appears we are rapidly approaching the end of the download on some of the largest online music outlets, specifically, Apple iTunes. The music download, which had appeared to be so strong even only just a few short years ago, is going the way of the CD… and vinyl before it. Downloads are now becoming a niche market, just like CD and vinyl, and will soon be found only on music outlets such as CD Baby and Bandcamp. First quarter of 2019, as Apple outlined, is looking like the timeframe for this to occur. In part, this is due to the success of their streaming service Apple Music, which now is generating more revenue than Spotify.
Check out the three articles below, first from Digital Music News on the impending demise of the music download:
The second, from Forbes, taken from the RIAA’s (Recording Industry Association of America) annual year-end report:
And the third, from Billboard on CD sales: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8477070/cd-sales-not-dying-but-heading-towards-niche-status-vinyl-analysis
Granted, a couple of these articles appeared much earlier in the year but one can assume that for CDs and downloads, and specifically album downloads, the trends haven’t reversed themselves since then.
I’ll throw in an additional article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which asks the musical question “should you hang on to your CDs”:
- The takeaways from all these developments would appear to be obvious:
Streaming has now become the de facto medium for recorded music and appears to be the endgame… for now. I had mentioned this in a post from 6 years ago, although it didn’t really occur to me at the time that the download would go away (and it won’t, completely).
As far as streaming being the endgame, it has been the self-perpetuating nature of the music industry to come up with new delivery formats along the way as technology evolved, so I suppose eventually, something may come along to replace streaming. Except that the streaming platform really didn’t come from the music industry, did it? That came from the tech industry. What new medium could replace streaming? Right now, I think most people don’t know.
- Albums sell more on the physical format – CD – than on downloads and are most effective sales-wise, but only when the CD is released on the album’s street date. If artists don’t release a CD on the street date, they’re leaving money on the table… And then retail outlets like Best Buy pull their CD stock off the shelves.
There is this, however, from the Forbes article: “People have been saying for a long time that the physical album is done, but the category is responsible for more money coming into the music industry than digital album and song sales combined.”
And this from Billboard: ““If we had CDs on those albums, the [format’s] sales numbers would tell a different story,” Newbury Comics head of purchasing Carl Mello tells Billboard. “When 90 percent of the most popular music [hip-hop] in America doesn’t show up on CD, of course sales will be down. Duh.”
- There is no music industry “recovery”. The tech industry has effectively hijacked the music industry. Or, maybe as one label executive has said, “[the labels] are reacting to what’s happening in the marketplace, not causing it.”
I tend to think that’s the case.
Until some new/revamped format replaces streaming, any recovery has been put on hold. Indefinitely.
- If there’s any music or any albums you need to download, you should probably do it by the end of the year, and also back up downloads you have purchased in the past (blank CDs are good for this… you can still get them at Office Depot/Office Max and online). Just sayin’…
After that it appears that CD Baby, Bandcamp, and eMusic will be the last refuge for digital downloads (and most of their inventory is independent or emerging artists… hey, like me!).
- And to answer the question of whether you should hang on to those CDs (or vinyl, cassettes, or anything else other than 8-tracks)… well, do you listen to CDs? Keep ’em. Did you have vinyl, sell or get rid of it in favor of CDs, only to regret it later? Do you have downloads? Back ’em up. Streaming is hot now… but for how long?… ‘Til the next “hot” format comes along?
Remember that the music industry has historically made and continues to make a significant chunk of their money from selling the music consumer the same music over and over again, just in different formats.
And please, continue to purchase music… rather than or in addition to streaming. Thanks!
I’ll leave you with this from musician Danny Michel to illustrate what streaming has actually done within the music biz: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10160771798630467&set=a.10150674561930467&type=3&theater
Nights on Venus news:
Currently, I am continuing work in the new studio, recording and mixing songs for Nights on Venus’ next full-length album which will be my 6th full-length album… entitled “Late Night Meditations in/on Suburbia” (yeah, it keeps morphing a bit), set for release in 2019. It has taken a while to get back in a groove after the move, almost 5 months ago, much longer than expected, but I think I’m there now… only to be interrupted by the holidays of course, but I’m taking everything right now as a work in progress in this, a transitional year, year-and-a-half, or for however long our interim residence in the suburban hinterlands will be and it’s all coming together. There is new music posted on SoundCloud – excerpts from the forthcoming album and you can find it here: https://soundcloud.com/nights-on-venus/sets/excerpts-from-late-night
Includes the already-released single “The Wheels Are Coming Off” from this past June, 2018. I will be adding to the playlist over the coming months.
The most recent releases from Nights on Venus are the 2-song single, “The Wheels Are Coming Off“, released this past summer, and the 3-song single/EP, “Snow Day“, from December, 2017.
The most recent full-length release “We Are All Haunted by Something” was released in the summer of 2017 and includes the 2-song single “Speed of Life” and “Confirm Humanity (I’m Not a Robot)”. All albums/singles/EPs from Nights on Venus are available on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon MP3. and the NoV website.