The Compact Disc, commonly known simply as “CD, the primary distribution method of music over the past nearly 30 years, is on its way out. This isn’t anything new to anyone – digital music sales have been climbing over the past decade, and now well surpass sales of physical media on a whole. The CD, however, still hangs on as the dominant form of physical media sold, with audio cassette amazingly still available via special methods and the vinyl record making a major comeback over the last decade. Big box stores that sell music still generally carry a good selection of CD’s.
Well, that was the case, until now. According to this Billboard article found by my friend Prince Watercress, Best Buy is pulling CD’s completely, and Target is planning to re-negotiate the contracts orders and sells music under.
Best Buy pulling CD’s outright feels somewhat drastic, but given how the company has shrunk it’s CD selection over time as sales have decreased, it makes sense in some ways to just cut it outright and make space for other things that might sell better. Sadly, this is probably the next flavor-of-the-week smart device, or more room for cell phones and tablets that no one will care about in 3 months, but that’s their problem – I don’t much care for Best Buy anyway.
Regardless, to see them go from a major CD sales location to abandoning them all together is something big. To know that they will continue to stock vinyl for another 2 years (which means, up until 2020) just seems odd. I fully get the obligations they made to vendors, but it’s clear they want to get out of the physical music sales scene ASAP. It’s only a matter of time before they do the same with movies, I feel.
The article also discusses Target – another store chain I don’t much care for, but still is not a force to be ignored in the American retail market. In this case, Target isn’t cutting music, but they are wanting to change things. Instead of being pretty much stuck with unsold inventory and having to lose quite a bit of money in the long run, paying to ship back what doesn’t sell and only getting a partial credit (what I call the “media sales agreement” that media companies have with virtually every retailer, be it Walmart, Target, Best Buy, what have you, that also covers movies and video games (and is the reason you can’t just return a video game, for example, once you open it)), Target instead wants to pay only for units sold, and the rest be returned to the maker – a consignment approach that’s normally how other items are sold, give or take some details.
This would be a major change to how music has traditionally been handled, and might well change the game for movies and, uh, games, as well if this goes the way Target wants it to, and other retailers cite this as a precedent to change their agreements as well, which I feel is likely and somewhat overdue.
If the music companies don’t agree to this, then it looks like their CD’s won’t be sold in Target, and if other retailers try it themselves, the music industry might find itself with very few outlets for physical media. This might well increase costs overall due to an even greater decrease in sales volume and with that, the death spiral will continue.
There’s quite a bit more to be said on this, but, well, as things stand, it’s an interesting time. Honestly I don’t want the CD to die off – I find the audio quality fine, enjoy the tangible aspects of the medium (as I do vinyl, audio cassette, LaserDisc, and other physical media) and while digital download and cloud streaming services have their benefits, sometimes being detached from it all by just putting a CD in a CD player and listening away is more of what I’m in the mood for.
It’s a strange time for media – things are changing, but they are changing in a way that while convenient many people really don’t like for reasons that I feel are incredibly valid for the most part. That’s another story for another time, though.