The Disappearance of Physical Media

Smart speakers are becoming ubiquitous. Apple finally released their entry into this increasingly crowded market with the well-reviewed HomePod. Streaming services, most notably Spotify and Apple Music, are in their ascendancy, having each added tens of millions of paying subscribers over the last couple of years. As much as I hate blog posts decrying the death of things, these trends certainly signal the grave digging for music on physical media could soon begin.

While the vinyl market is still slowly growing, and new vinyl pressing plants are opening, the once-beloved compact disc seems to be on its way out. The latest blow to the format is that Best Buy, which was once one of the largest retailers of music, is getting rid of their shelf space for CD’s this year. An article from Consequence of Sound reveals the details.

Come June 1st, Best Buy will no longer offer CDs in its retail stores. Physical music is only generating around $40 million in annual revenue for the company and executives would rather dedicate the floor space to more lucrative items, Billboard notes. Best Buy will continue to sell vinyl for at least the next two years, but titles will now be merchandised with turntables.

Another big box retailer mentioned in the article, that is striking a blow to the CD, is Target. They still plan to stock compact discs, but are trying to force the records labels into a deal where the labels will have to buy back any unsold inventory. This is an interesting turn of events. When the record labels held the power and wanted to push retailers into switching from the vinyl record to the higher-margin compact disc, they offered buy backs on unsold CD’s but not on records. I guess the shoe is on the other foot now and the retailers have the upper hand.

When was the last time Best Buy had a decent CD selection? Truck stops and Cracker Barrell have been beating them for years.
— Numero Group (@numerogroup) February 4, 2018
Robert Rackley @rcrackley
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