Are we witnessing the death of physical music?

In the days before CD’s and digital downloads/streaming services, we listened to our music using tape cassettes. They were very popular as it not only allowed to play music but record music too. Creating mixtapes to try and woo that special someone was common back in the 80s/90s. The late ’80s was its most successful era, with hi-fi systems falling in price and Sony introducing the Walkman to the world, 83 million music cassettes were sold in 1989 in the UK.

Why are sales of physical music on the decline?

In 2008 there were around 132 million sales of CDs in the UK, in 2018 total CD sales totalled 32 million – a significant drop in only a decade. The clear and obvious factor that has caused the demise of physical music is the emergence of music streaming platforms which accounts for two-thirds of music consumption in the UK. Spotify and Apple music this market and along with their competitors a total of 91 billion songs were played through their services in 2018. That is the equivalent of each person in the UK playing 1,300 songs over the course of the year. From these statistics, we can see the shift in how people listen to music in the UK.

For the majority artist, streaming services do not provide their main source of income. For each song played through Spotify, the “Holder” will receive around £0.006. And the Holder can be split between the record label, producer, artists and songwriters. This has caused artists to apply more focus to their live shows. In general, live concerts and shows are becoming more popular which also could be negatively affecting the sales of physical music.

It is also much easier to listen to music for free. Vevo’s video streaming service allows users to watch music videos from an array of artists through YouTube. According to their website, they receive 25billion monthly views and contains 330,000 videos.

Will vinyl be the saviour of physical music?

With the decline of the once loved CD, Vinyl sales have surprisingly increased over the last few years and are at a 25-year high. 4.7 million vinyl albums were sold in the UK over the past year. It seems there are music lovers that reject the modern-day way of music being so accessible and immediate as opposed to leaving the house and discovering music in a record shop which makes it feel more meaningful.

We are definitely experiencing the demise of physical music, the ease of streaming music is an obvious advantage to going to a shop and purchasing a CD. It seems Vinyl is helping to keep the physical market going but for how long is yet to be seen.

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