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Decline in Music Sales

Just like cassette players and vinyl records from generations before, the CD is slowly making its way to the veteran’s circle of music players past. The silver discs no longer serve as the most functional way to listen to music since the debut of digital downloading in 2003.

“It’s not just as practical for our day and age to buy CDs,” TJC student Devin Yazzie said. “A majority of people have iPhones [and other smartphones] and can buy a song at the touch of a button. That’s practical.”

The iTunes Music Store opened May 2003 in the U.S. selling over one million songs in the first week setting the tone of music sales for the next decade. Nothing could stop the progression of digital music sales, until the streaming revolution in 2013, causing a decline for digital music stores like iTunes, Google and Amazon. More free, cheaper options for listening to music are hitting the sound waves and challenging the digital music companies.

Billboard Magazine said popularity in streaming music is a reason digital music sales are declining, according to Nielsen Soundscan in January.

Soundscan also reported a decline of 14.5 percent in 2013 for physical album sales, confirming CD sales were at an all-time low. The practicality and logic behind digital downloads is what attracts iPhone and Android users alike.

TJC student Ashlyn Palasota browses through iTunes on her iPhone searching for artists and listening to one-minute previews of songs that spark her interest. Music consumers “cherry pick” favorite tracks and purchase single songs, versus full albums- another cause for the decline of album sales.

“I don’t even think about going to Hastings or Target to buy music … it’s just easier [to digitally buy music],” Palasota said.

This doesn’t mean CDs aren’t being purchased at all. Although people who traditionally purchase physical albums are transitioning to the digital age of buying music, CD sales still account for 57.2 percent of album sales, according to Billboard. Purchasing a physical CD is more likely to occur when people have a strong connection with the artist and want a “symbolic representation” of their feelings toward the music.

Others do not have a preference when it comes to buying music. Criminal Justice major Ashley Gray said that she goes to Walmart about once a year to purchase music because she thinks it is less expensive than digitally buying music.

No matter the experience for buying music, it’s certain that streaming music is creating financial tension for both avenues (CDs and digital downloads). For the first time since 2003, digital track sales fell 5.7 percent, from 1.34 billion units to 1.26 billion units in 2013, Billboard said.

Free music playing websites, like YouTube and SoundCloud, allow users to upload videos or tracks for their listening pleasure. Automated recommendation services like Pandora Internet Radio and iTunes Radio plays songs based on users’ artist selections and are available for no charge, as well. Commercial music streaming platforms Spotify and Beats music provides a large range and variety of songs available anytime, anywhere for $10 per month, and has gained popularity in streaming. Spotify also offers a free music streaming service with ads and commercials in between available on smartphones, tablets and computers.

In January, TIME Magazine reported that the problem with free music websites is the lack of revenue for artists, record labels and companies. The only way the music industry can adapt is by changing the way they promote albums and finding new ways to “convert free music listeners into paying subscribers.”

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