Boom or bust: CDs first manufactured 40 years ago


CDs and CD players were first introduced to the Japanese market back in November 1982. By March 1983, they launched worldwide. (Photo: NewsNation)

(NewsNation) — Sliding under car seats or stuffed into a binder of plastic sleeves, music lovers may find a forgotten form of their favorite hits. The CDs once containing must-listen to songs on a road trip now seem like a distant memory, but come Wednesday, the spotlight will be back on the shiny discs.

Aug. 17, 2022, marks 40 years since the first compact disc (CD) was manufactured. Four decades ago, at a factory near Hanover in Germany, Royal Philips Electronics made a copy of “The Visitors” by ABBA.

The co-produced format by Sony and Philips represented the start of a shift from analogue to digital music. CDs offered improved sound quality and better scratch resistance. Plus, the standard disc would hold more than one hour of music.

CDs and CD players were first introduced to the Japanese market in November 1982. By March 1983, they launched worldwide.

The shiny spirals were pushed aside in the 2000s as MP3 players and iPods gained popularity.

CDs are considered full bandwidth recordings and became a recording standard of uncompressed audio.

By contrast, a professor in the Department of Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University explained that MP3 files use perceptual coding, eliminating data and reducing file size dramatically while introducing a negligible difference in sound quality to the average listener.

Since the file size decreased, it also made it easier for peer-to-peer file-sharing websites to dominate the early 2000s. With CDs costing more than a young fan’s weekly allowance and illegal file-sharing coming in for free, the buzz surrounding CDs eventually diminished.

Today, tangible CDs with an entire collection of songs and an annoying amount of shrink wrap have often been replaced by streamed singles readily available at a fan’s fingertips. Now, streams drive sales with a small amount of money going to artists from physical sales.

But, could CDs make a comeback? A post from the Recording Academy, formerly known as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), suggests it’s possible.

According to the report, in 2021, CD sales saw an uptick for the first time in almost 20 years.

The Academy that runs the Grammy Awards says the spike in CD sales brought in more than $580 million in revenue. In the same time, streaming sales reached $12.3 billion.

The Recording Academy maintains that loyal fans to stars including Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Adele are to thank for soaring CD sales. They say Adele’s “30” sold millions of copies last year with 880,000 of the sales in the form of CDs.

But that’s not the only music format seeing a resurgence of interest. Vinyl record sales increased for the 15th consecutive year, the academy reports.

Who is buying CDs and albums? The Academy pointed to Gen Z. As they rediscover the nostalgia of CDs and records, will the formats bounce back for the music industry or fall behind once again? It seems like only time will tell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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