Thought Leadership

The death of the CD?

By Colin Walls

A while ago, I wrote about my enthusiasm for live music. I commented that the music business seems to be in a transition – mostly moving in a good direction. I predicted that, in the future, recorded music will be free [or very low cost] and musical performers will earn their money from actually performing. The more they perform [=work], the more they earn. If they are good enough to fill big auditoriums, they will make more money. That all seems fair to me.

This past week I spotted another possible trend …

My partner was very keen on a song that they had been playing a lot on the radio – I think it may have been used in a TV advert. I said that I would try to get her the CD. It did not take me long to discover that the CD was on pre-order; it is due to be released in mid-January. I could purchase a couple of tracks as MP3 downloads – that was all. I was curious: why the delay?

I assume that the hit had caught the publishers by surprise and they were simply not prepared to cash in on it and the lead time for CD production is quite long. Or maybe they think that the days of buying real CDs are nearly past and downloads are the way forward. It seems to me that electronic distribution has to be very attractive to all concerned: it is a very cost-effective way to supply the music and the consumer gets what they want straight away – a win/win. Used intelligently, the technology can be great for generating incremental sales. For example, I went to a concert [wrote about it here] and could buy a recording of the evening’s performance on a USB stick immediately or purchase it on download a few hours later [which I did].

Perhaps I am just old fashioned, but I do actually like getting hard media in my hand. I know that I can burn a backup of downloaded tracks, but somehow that is not the same. I think that there is the possibility for a smart business model: an album is released for download as soon as it is ready, thus yielding a return on investment promptly; a CD is released [a little while] later, which includes some extras [documentation, bonus tracks etc.]; if it is timed right, many people would happily buy both.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at