Perfect Sound Forever?

How the Compact Disc Sowed the Seeds of Its Own Demise

Authored by: Jason Curtis

The Routledge Companion to Media Technology and Obsolescence

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138216266
eBook ISBN: 9781315442686
Adobe ISBN:


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Compact Disc Digital Audio (to give the music version of the compact disc its full name) has now been with us for 35 years, an enormous achievement for any consumer music format, and in that time has sold in its billions, making the recording industry massive profits in the process. However, sales of music albums on compact disc reached their peak as long ago as the year 2000 with unit sales in the US of 942.5 million. Since then, sales have fallen steadily to just 99.4 million units in the US in 2016 (RIAA, 2017a). In the UK, compact discs peaked later in 2004 at 162.4 million units, but have since fallen to 47.6 million in 2016 (BPI, 2017). The compact disc music single effectively disappeared around the mid-2000s, having begun to decline as early as 1997 in the US (RIAA, 2017a). While it is too soon to talk of the end of the compact disc, there might come a day soon when it ceases to be a mainstream format in the same way that the vinyl LP record ceased to be by the early 1990s.

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