Are physical CDs still important? (Seven industry insiders weigh in)

Do CD still matter?CD sales and the modern musician

For many musicians these days, setting up the merch booth is an afterthought.

Since everyone can easily find music online now, some bands assume that people in the audience are less likely to purchase physical discs. Whether that assumption is correct or not, it’s conditioning many musicians to leave their discs at home, or in the car, or just… on the side of the stage, in case.

I’ll admit that I’m sometimes guilty of this myself. I played a show three months ago where I sold ZERO CDs. So when I returned to that same venue earlier this month I almost didn’t bring a full box of discs. I thought to myself, “I’ll just put a handful of CDs in my bag, and that should suffice.”

But something made me think twice. I brought the box and set up the merch properly. It was a great night, a great audience, and the RIGHT audience. I sold out of that box of CDs and wished I’d brought plenty of extras. So the quick moral of the story is, from my perspective: don’t leave home without ’em.

It’s better to have a stocked merch booth and no sales than to have people there that want to pay you but can’t — because you didn’t bring CDs.

But that’s just one man’s opinion. Let’s see what other independent artists and industry folks have to say.

The experts weigh in: do physical CD sales still matter?

Yes. People still buy CD’s at the table after the show. They want them signed, they want to say hello, and they want to help me keep the tour going. CD sales are an important source of income for me.

Mary Gauthier


Less than ever. Even though they still contribute to a large portion of global music revenues, they are quickly being overtaken by downloads and particularly streaming. The latter is the future, as everyone is becoming used to having everything accessible at the click of a button – no purchase or trip to the store required. This is backed up by the recent IFPI Recording Industry report which shows that global music revenues in 2012 consist of 57% from physical revenues (5% decrease since 2011) and 35% of digital revenues (7.4% increase since 2011).

Budi Voogt


“Are physical CDs still important?”  Yes.  But not as “important” as vinyl which actually has gone up

The short answer is as long as there are stores carrying physical product you should aim to be in stores, right?  Can’t win if you don’t play.

– Christen Greene of Onto Entertainment (Management for Lumineers, Hey Marseilles, Phox, Andrea Gibson)


Physical CDs are definitely still important. Putting aside that most terrestrial radio (and digital radio for that matter!) still operate off of a library of CDs, having a physical copy to sell at shows gives your fans a tangible way of connecting to your music.

– Jon Ostrow


A small number of people still enjoy having the physical CD rather than just a digital download, but I think they’re becoming obsolete. I still do a very small run of physical CDs, but as time goes on it gets harder and harder to justify the cost.

– Kari Kimmel


“Are physical CDs still important?” I asked myself the same question in advance of my new record. Then I remembered that my parents can barely find the App store on their iPhone, let alone figure out how to get music on there and then hook it up to their car’s stereo which doesn’t have an aux (or USB) input. Yes, until the 45+ crowd is as proficient at playing music from Spotify or iTunes as they are at popping CDs into the player, they are still important.

And it’s not just for the elders. I have a CD player in my car. And a Spotify Premium subscription. If someone hands me an unwrapped CD I’ll pop it in my car for a quick listen. It’s still much easier than having to download an mp3, open it in iTunes, drag it to my iPhone folder, plug in my iPhone to my laptop to sync it, wait 3 minutes for it to go through all 27 steps and then hook it up to my aux input in my car while driving.

For a physical interaction with someone who you’d like to listen to your music, hand them an unwrapped CD and I bet you’ll get a listen.

Ari Herstand


“Are physical Cds still important?” —  It depends on your target market. If your market is a little younger, most of them purchase their music with their phones or Itunes or they listen to it through streaming services. However, I know some artists that sell to an older demographic and their audience still wants the physical product.

– Jo-Ná Williams


What do you think? Are physical CDs still an important part of your band’s merch offerings? Are they crucial to your PR efforts? Let us know in the comments section below.

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[CD image from Shutterstock.]

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