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Could We Really Say Goodbye to CDs in 2012?

Compact Disc Sale
Scott Barbour, Getty Images

It’s no secret that sales of physical music have plummeted in the 21st century, with consumers’ growing preferences for streaming and downloading songs sending the industry into a tailspin that it’s only started to shake itself out of over the last few years.

But even if CDs aren’t as hot as they were during their ’90s peak, most consumers still think of the compact disc as the predominant format — which is why it came as such a shock when a recent report surfaced claiming the major labels will phase out CDs for good in 2012.

It bears mentioning right up front that the report, published at, is anonymously sourced  — and that CDs still account for more than 70 percent of album sales in the U.S., so we’d probably all do well to take the whole thing with a giant grain of salt.

Billboard columnist Glenn Peoples said as much in a recent feature, dismissing the report as “dubious” before stating flatly, “there is no major label plan to abandon the CD format by the end of 2012.” Continued Peoples, “A major corporation isn’t going to take such incredibly drastic measure. Can you imagine what the recorded music divisions of EMI or Warner Music Group would fetch if they stopped selling CDs?”

Still, as with many sweeping pronouncements that don’t seem to hit the mark, the Side-Line report bears a kernel of truth. As the article points out, digital formats enjoy a cost advantage; ditching CDs would mean unloading the financial burden of manufacturing, storing, and shipping them. Eventually, the bottom line could very well dictate abandoning physical formats entirely. In the short term, however, it doesn’t seem likely.

Are you ready to give up CDs (or vinyl) and go all-digital with your music library? Hit the comments and let us know!

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