Took long enough: digital music sales finally conquer CDs

IFPI report 2014

For the first time, the compact disc has been usurped as the format of choice.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has published a report revealing that 2014's total global revenue in the digital space (combining both music downloads and music streaming subscriptions), proving that I'm not the only one ditching trips to the record store for the immediacy that digital provides.

However, it was a close fight: digital revenue pulled ahead with $6.85 billion in sales, whereas sales of physical formats lagged a bit behind at $6.82 billion.


Digital sales are steadily increasing year-over-year

Considering that the digital music industry more or less got its start in the last fifteen years, it's impressive that so many people are getting behind it. Or maybe, it's more impressive that the CD, a 30+ year old format, is still selling like hotcakes. I can't decide.

The report also unearths some interesting trends. Most notably, that even though digital music revenue beat out physical revenue in 2014 on a global scale, zooming in on individual regions reveals that the balance of digital versus physical revenue teeters in different ways depending on where you look.

For instance, Japan's revenue situation put physical on top in 2014 with 78% of total sales. Germany and South Africa and Poland followed suit with 70, 62 and 71% respectively.

Is this the final nail in the coffin for physical media? Nope. The IFPI pointed out that although CD sales dipped this past year, vinyl record sales, on the other hand, had a champagne year. The old-school format, cherished for its warm, full-bodied sound delivery, only accounted for 2% of global physical revenue, but that's up 54% from 2013.

It's only getting easier to find appealing music download and streaming options, like Tidal, Spotify and Deezer, so it'll be interesting to see if the tables turn further in favor of digital over physical in 2015.

Source: Wall Street Journal
Image credit: IFPI

Cameron Faulkner

Cameron is a writer at The Verge, focused on reviews, deals coverage, and news. He wrote for magazines and websites such as The Verge, TechRadar, Practical Photoshop, Polygon, Eater and Al Bawaba.