March 8 – A Day For People Who Dig Digital Music

This has been a big day for digital music and how it’s changed the industry. First, in 1979, Philips demonstrated a prototype of the Compact disc player at a news conference in the Netherlands. It was the fruition of a patent filed by James Russell back in 1966, and in 1980 they standardized the format with Sony who were also working on it. By 1982, CDs were available for consumers and six years after that they were outselling LPs.

Even though compact discs were topping 900 million sold annually in the U.S. by the end of the 20th Century, their days would be somewhat numbered thanks to the internet. To whit, on this day in 2006 Canada recognized the evolving technology of music by giving out awards for gold and platinum music downloads for the first time. INXS, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters were among the initial recipients of gold “downloads”, although at the time the bar was set fairly low – 10 000 paid downloads compared to 50 000 hard copies for a gold record in the Great White North. The U.S. began a similar process the year before, giving Gwen Stefani a gold record for digital downloads of her song “Hollaback Girl.”

These days the vast majority of gold and platinum certifications are for digital purchases and more recently streaming listens on services like Spotify have been factored in, making the job of certifying a song or album “gold” or “platinum” considerably cloudier and more difficult. As of 2019, there were about 45 million CDs sold, 19 million vinyl LPs (despite the hype about a vinyl revival, current sales by dollar value are still less than 1/10th of what they were at that format’s peak, 1978), and about one million music DVDs. By comparison, 40 million digital albums and 330 million singles were downloaded but there were 60 million streaming music subscriptions. Overall, digital music sales (via download and streaming services) accounted for about eight out of every nine dollars the music recording industry took in. It all leads one to draw two conclusions. One, that the only constant in the music industry is change in how it’s delivered. And two, that popular songs will always be consumed en masse… and the industry will award those most popular.

13 thoughts on “March 8 – A Day For People Who Dig Digital Music

    1. Me too, but when I do it’s almost always online. Around here I think Walmart is the only place that sells new ones and their selection is limited, needless to say. I’d buy more vinyl too if it wasn’t so expensive these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    19 million vinyl is nothing to sneeze at though, in this time of downloads. That number shocked me more than anything…in a good way.
    No it will never get back to it’s peak…CDs won’t either for that matter…but I agree with your comment…the vinyl has to come down in price…I believe it will.
    Hard to believe he thought of it in 1966.

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    1. it’s amazing how far back some inventions go…I happened upon a video from a late-’50s ad for a Smart home, essentially, that had a microwave (though it wasn’t called that), flat-screen TVs that came up out of cabinets, a very basic computer I would say that would regulate thermostat, motion-sensitive lights outside… it was like the Jetsons, but they had a prototype!
      there’s definitely some basic Econ 101 with the hard copies… lower the price, demand will rise. I know I’d buy more – which is basically to say “some” – new vinyl if prices were much lower. Now granted, they’re not producing them in quantities like before so the overhead would be higher but I still think there’s a huge markup going on along the supply chain… especially with Beatles, Floyd, Zeppelin… they already have masters and don’t need to spend big on recording or remixing.

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      1. badfinger20 (Max)

        I know I’ve seen things ahead of their time in some old shows. I posted about the Night Gallery episode that had an early GPS system with the streets. If any of those inventions would have came sooner…it could have changed an era…can you imagine CD’s in the sixties?

        You are right…it’s pure profit for the older bands…all are there waiting to be made. McCartney’s vinyl sold rather well when he put out the different colors…I think he went overboard but it helped drive it to number 1.

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      2. no doubt… colored vinyl, picture discs… there’s a lot that can be done to make the album even more of a “must-have”.
        GPS back that far – guess there’s always a lag between when someone can think of the innovation and actually produce it. Reminds me of George Harrison griping/correctly predicting back in the 70s that some day there’d be a computer that would tell you if your song is like any other song written. I’m sure there’s software that will do that, more or less by now and of course there’s that app my kiddo uses constantly where you point the phone a t a speaker and it will tell you what the song is 9 times out of 10 at least.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. badfinger20 (Max)

        Yes a blogger I followed featured an app that would say what parts was like another.

        I think sometimes artists plays on their fans/collectors quite a bit. I love Paul’s music but I’m not buying 11 different color albums lol.

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      4. Oh I hear you. Even my favorite acts rarely get me to buy extra versions or anniversary editions that have 3 live bonus tracks tacked on. But if I am looking for it, I’ll often try for the new one. I had a few colored vinyl records in the day. Never owned any picture discs but I saw some cool ones.

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  2. That peak of vinyl sales of 1978 makes sense; the baby boomers had enough years and money under their belts and yet be mostly free of the mortgage/ 2.5 kids/ family dog cash flow demands that mire us down, and to enjoy spending that time listening to their soon fading youth.
    So, yeah, 1978 that’s understandable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you might be a few years ahead of yourself, but your point is quite valid. They say most people are most passionate about music in their teen or college years, and with the Baby Boom, the births peaked in around the late-50s… so there was a huge bubble of 18-22 year olds loving music in the ’78 era, having part time jobs or making a start on the workforce but not having a lot of expenses like kids. Then the older baby boomers, the ones from right after the war, they’d be getting to 30 or so and perhaps getting to where they’d be making a lot of money. Either way, lots of disposable income for entertainment … seems like there were also a whole lot of very big-grossing movies around that time too .

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    1. By and large, I admit I prefer CD (in most cases … especially ones recorded for digital… that said , i have at times run into CD reissues that were dogs and had close to no dynamic range) but vinyl has its charms, not the least of which is the size and the accompanying artwork and liner notes. But unless you spot a deal online or happen by a yard sale with some good oldies, it’s way too expensive for me for the most part.

      Liked by 2 people

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