Vinyl, Cassettes & Retail

Survey: UK Music Buyers Prefer CD To Digital

Will Labels & Retailers Seize The Opportunity?

Most UK music fans are still happier buying a CD than downloading, according to the latest research by research agency The Leading Question in conjunction with Music Ally. Even teens say they still prefer CDs.

Cd many The survey of 1000 music fans showed that despite the growth of digital download sales:

  • 73% of music fans are still happy buying CDs rather than downloading
  • 66% of 14-18 year olds prefer CDs
  • 59% of all music fans still listen to CDs every day
  • CD burning is top of all sharing activities (23%), above bluetooth (18%), sharing single tracks (17%) and sharing albums (13%)
Fans say they still value a physical CD much more than digital downloadsm and with most sales coming from online stores and supermarkets (they represented 46% of all UK CD sales in '08), even the demise of indie music stores may not cause the end of the CD.

Digital is still the future, but rumors of the death of the CD may be premature.

"The continued popularity of the CD should be looked upon as an opportunity. We believe that labels and online stores could and should be doing more to build on music fans’ familiarity with CDs to provide them with additional digital content and to use the CD as a bridge into the digital world,” argues survey head Tim Walker.

The research shows that even the most digitally advanced music fans continue to buy CDs, with little evidence to show that digital music consumption is simply replacing physical consumption.

  • Those who are paying for a digital music subscription service (such as Napster or Musicstation) spend more on CDs each month than most music fans (£16.87 per month compared to £11.37).
  • Music streamers (ie those who listen to streamed music on their computers every day) also spend more on CDs (£12.17 a month) and downloads (£7.02 per month compared with a survey average of £3.81) than most music fans.
“While we fully expect that digital will eventually replace most physical consumption, this is not a clear cut replacement cycle like the change from vinyl to CD." adds Music Ally CEO Paul Brindley. "It’s particularly encouraging that those who are listening to streamed music on their computers are actually buying more music on both CDs and downloads than the average music fan. This suggests that digital can and is being used as a way of sampling new music which users may then go on to purchase."

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  1. “Digital is still the future, but rumors of the death of the CD may be premature.”
    CDs are digital.

  2. For CD’s to sell, the intimacy of having a physical CD needs to outweigh the immediacy of getting the album downloaded in a couple of minutes, rather than waiting days for shipping or having to trek down the road to the record store.
    That’s the real debate and I’m not sure this research touched on it.

  3. This post is encouraging in many ways, as I don’t necessarily believe all reports put out by our governing agencies in the recording industry. Musicians should pay close attention to all that goes on globally…and this is a very good example.
    The “art” of the CD in all ways should not be overlooked. There is art in the methods used to create CDs. Apparently the Brits get the concept. There is art in many, many artists CD covers and liner notes. This too has not been lost on the Brits.
    In many ways the UK has been ahead of the vision of the American recording industry…and has remained there for decades.
    America is a consumption culture, so it doesn’t make that much sense that the ethereal digital format is their preference. What does make sense is we in the US want more toys…like iPods, and iPhones. Not sure where Britain stands on that issue.
    Janet Hansen

  4. The trouble with downloads is that to give them some longeivity and wholeness, qualities that are inherent by the CD, you the listener needs to organise them on your computer and archive them on safety copies.
    If there are no safety copies after a headcrash, music fans that have gone all download will not necessarily reconsider buying every download again, but rather either not care or turn towards piracy to reacquire what they have already bought once.
    And the promotional push that catalogue releases get from young kids digging in their parents’ record collections is basically lost in the download world, too, because without a physical representation of the music, there might not be a reason at all to go through anything for the kids.
    There are no such problems with CDs. But they suffer from the current trend that labels currently instruct mastering engineers to cater to the iPod crowd: to turn up the bass and loudness levels way too heavy to be much fun to listen to an album as a whole on a good home stereo system. And they suffer from the format wars with the files, DVD-Audio, SA-CD, phones, etc.
    But if you want lasting listening enjoyment, and dislike the office environment that the computer puts you in, the CD is the way to go.

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  6. Downloads are for losers: they only rent the music, when their hard disc or CDR crashes sooner or later, they do not own the music anymore. Vinyl is for so called audiophiles who like sounds the musicians never produced, mp3 for those who do not care what the musicians really played. A CD comes as close as buyers can get to the real thing played in the studio if not ruined in the end mix (the loudness war). The late Maurice Oberstein, an American who was latterly head of the Polygram UK (later Universal) label. “Do you realise we are giving away our master tapes here?” he asked at an industry event in the early days of the CD. He was damn right!
    The music lover

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