Looks like digital music downloads on computers, MP3 players, iPods, smart-phones and the like are altering the music industry more dramatically than the cassette tape ever could.

Compact Disks (CD) came into the marketplace about 1982-83.  And, by the end of the 1980s CDs had just about replaced cassette tape and records as the format of choice for music.  Today, I read that Linn Products (based outside Glasgow, Scotland) is preparing to discontinue manufacturing CD players; the reason is declining sales of CDs!

Although the article I was reading, and its associated statistics, were focused on the United Kingdom (UK) I’d be surprised if the results were much different (on a percentage basis) in the US.   According to The British Phonographic Industry trade body, more than 117 million tracks had been bought by the end of October this year.  And, that is before the popular music gift giving season of Christmas.  Looks like 2009 is set to be a record year for single sales.  No doubt the economy has driven some cash-strapped music fans to economize.

Market share for albums was still dominated by CD sales but it is slumping.  In 2008, there were 137 million album sales, made up of 123 million CDs, 10.3 million digital downloads;  vinyl records, cassettes and other formats accounted for around 300,000.  In 2007, only 2.7 million albums were sold via download, while 151 million CDs were purchased!

My earliest recollection of music was watching people singing; either family or friends.  Then, I can remember AM radio and the black & white TV.  When I was about 10 years old, my father got a hi-fi (high-fidelity) radio with turntable; he was a carpenter and had done some remodeling work on a store in Newark which sold just about everything associated with music.  As part, or all (I don’t remember which), he exchanged labor for components and some LPs (33 1/3 rpm albums).  That’s when I became aware of FM radio and “longhair” music (classical music was popularly known as longhair or longhaired from about the mid-1930s until the Beatles landed).  Pop built his own cabinet and speaker boxes for his newly-acquired stereo system.  I can remember trying to listen to opera… I never did get into that stuff!

So, since the late-1950s what formats were/are available to the average music enthusiast: vinyl record singles & LPs (not to be overlooked are the large and heavy old antique 78 rpm records, which are spinning so quickly they finish in the same time as the much smaller vinyl single for sure); various tape formats – reel-to-reel, 8track and the shorter-lived 4track stereo cartridges, cassettes; CDs; and now digital downloads to the device of your choice.  And, let’s not forget listening to AM, FM and now satellite radio. 

What’s in the future?  Something mind-blowing I’m sure!  😎