• Graphic: The Rise and Fall of the Compact Disc
40 years ago, on August 17, 1982, the world’s first compact disc, a copy of ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’, was produced at a Philips factory in Germany, ushering in a new era for the industry. musical. Jointly developed by Philips and Sony, the CD was originally designed to hold 60 minutes of audio with a disc diameter of 115mm. However, the capacity was eventually extended to 74 minutes and a diameter of 120mm to accommodate a full performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. At least so goes the legend.
The advent of the CD also marks the beginning of the digital music era, although the bits and bytes of the CD era were still limited to physical media. It’s different from today’s digital music, which is no longer tied to physical laws and instead is delivered to our phones in what mere mortals can only describe as mid-level sorcery. Speaking of sorcery, there was some magic in unboxing a new CD you’d just bought with your hard-earned cash. A process that made you appreciate albums in a way that seems lost in the age of streaming services
Amid all the talk of music streaming and the vinyl revival, the continued decline in CD sales hasn’t garnered much attention in recent years. According to Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), US CD album sales have fallen 95% since their peak in 2000 and are currently at their lowest level since 1986, when Whitney Houston’s self-titled debut album topped the Billboard charts.
Hit by the rise of file sharing and MP3 players in the early 2000s, CD sales almost halved between 2000 and 2007, when smartphones and the first music streaming services emerged to put the last nail in the little round coffin of the compact disc. In 2021, there was a glimpse of life, however, as new albums and reissues from major artists such as Adele, Taylor Swift and BTS boosted CD sales for the first time in nearly 20 years.