Numerous news sites reported that as of this weekend, retailer Best Buy was calling it quits on CD sales, apparently all citing a report from Billboard in February giving a July 1st, 2018 kill date at the chain. That’s not the case, though it does appear to be true that Best Buy has made the fairly obvious business decision to begin phasing out CD sales in its US stores.
According to WSPA 7 News, reports of the total termination of CD sales at Best Buy are premature—though the company says it is significantly reducing retail space dedicated to CD sales and will only offer “select CDs”:
Earlier reports indicated that the big chain store stopped selling CDs in their stores nationwide as of July 1, but Best Buy officials said that’s not the case and said they’ll still be selling CDs but on a smaller scale.
“The way people buy and listen to music has dramatically changed and, as a result, we are reducing the amount of space devoted to CDs in our stores. However, we will still offer select CDs, vinyl and digital music options at all stores.”
In other words, people just aren’t buying CDs anymore in an era when they can stream music (or even just buy downloads of albums) over the internet at a much more favorable price point. Digital music sales outpaced CD sales in 2015, and in 2017 downloads were themselves overtaken by streaming sales.
Barring the complete and total collapse of all web infrastructure, it’s probably hard for consumers to justify spending money on CDs (even if they are splurging on vinyl). This does create a tough position for artists, whose revenue streams have been disrupted by the death of hard-copy albums—but they can’t exactly rely on a resurgence of an aging format to fix the problem.
As Billboard noted in February, Best Buy was once “the most powerful music merchandiser in the U.S.,” but sources said the amount of revenue generated has declined to a mere $40 million annually. (For comparison, Best Buy pulled in over $42 billion in revenue globally in the last fiscal year.) Declines in the sales of CDs are by no measure the chain’s only woes, with the company offering product rentals and even traveling salesmen in attempts to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon.
Billboard wrote that retail competitor Target is still pulling in significant CD sales. But it apparently was demanding a switch to “scan-based trading terms,” better known as consignment, for music and video suppliers. That meant they wouldn’t pay for the merchandise until shoppers had actually paid for it, instead of the pre-existing system where they shipped unsold merchandise back to the suppliers for credit.
While customers might still be able to pick up some CDs at Best Buy for the time being, the writing is on the door. On the other hand, this may be a good time to start looking for bargain bin sales.