David Sucsy/Getty Images
Vinyl records may be staging a bit of a comeback, but it could soon be curtains for CDs — once the cutting-edge format that nudged aside vinyl and cassette tapes when it ascended to prominence in the 1980s and '90s. Best Buy announced this week that it will stop selling compact discs this summer. Target said it will soon curtail CD sales as well, drastically cutting its inventory and mandating that record companies pledge to buy back unsold discs.
The announcement by two of the largest consumer electronics retailers — at one point, Best Buy was the biggest music seller in the U.S. — may well signal the death knell of the CD format. During the 1990s, global CD sales topped two billion annually. But with streaming services and digital downloads now the preferred mode of listening for most consumers, compact disc sales have plummeted, dropping by double-digit percentages in each year of this decade.
Engadget called the news “more of a sign of the times than a devastating blow,” but it still likely came as a bit of a shock to those who grew up head-bopping to new CDs in listening stations at Tower Records and HMV, and others who recall wrestling with the unwieldy, oddly large cardboard packaging that housed new CDs in the format’s nascent days. There were also those too-tall CD stands, vertical towers that held an entire music library that now fits in your pocket.
Be honest, though: When was the last time you popped a CD into your car audio system? New cars don’t even play the format. The Twitterverse reacted with a wistful nostalgia for a format that disappeared from the public consciousness long before it began vanishing from store shelves.
Those already feeling nostalgic for their CD collections can look to the example of vinyl albums, which faded nearly into extinction but have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. In announcing the end of CD sales, Best Buy pledged to continue vinyl sales for at least the next two years.