The decline of CDs may reach its lowest point soon as major retailers reconsider what was once a multi-billion dollar industry.
Per recent reports, Best Buy stores plan to stop selling CDs altogether by July. The company currently makes around $40 million per year off the medium. Vinyl, once pronounced dead by the retail market, will remain in stores for at least two more years.
In addition, Target reportedly wants to change how it acquires CDs from major labels. A low-risk consignment system allowing stores to return discs to distributors may be in the works. Currently, Target buys CDs in bulk, putting it at a disadvantage if a title fails to sell. This likely will limit an already thin selection at the chain's 1,800-plus stores.
Both retailers and other places that sell CDs cut down on stock over the years. Wal-Mart, a major player in the remaining market for new CDs, slashed its in-store selection by a reported 40 percent in 2014.
For some listeners, the convenience of streaming services and legal downloads gradually took the place of CDs. As "aux in" connections became standard for car stereos, wallets filled with discs became cumbersome for commuters. Likewise, most phones offer simpler portable listening options than a battery-draining portable CD player.
Others continue riding the wave of vinyl's ongoing resurgence. Although it remains a niche market in the grand scheme of things, new vinyl and high-dollar reissues made up a whopping 14 percent of physical album sales in 2017. That number was an all-time high for the Nielsen Scan era, which began in 1991. Some of last year's top-sellers on vinyl include the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Price's Purple Rain and other classic titles once gobbled up in the CD format by teenagers in their musical discovery phases.
Country stars enjoyed unprecedented success during the peak years of Nielsen Scan era CD sales. Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks became household names because the music-buying public propelled those acts' albums to the top of the genre's list of all-time best-sellers.
Who knows what's next for the CD format. With major retailers cutting stock, a once lucrative part of the mainstream music industry may be dying a slow death.