Sales of Music CDs Drop by 20 Percent

As online music sales have increased, sales of compact discs have plummeted. Over the past few years, the drop has been in the single digits. But lately, retailers have seen CD sales drop 20 percent.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

If you ask people if they're buying music CDs these days, the answer is increasingly likely to be no. Sales of music CDs are plummeting. So far this year, CD sales are down 20 percent. NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

(Soundbite of song, "Poppin'")

WENDY KAUFMAN: Listen to this song, "Poppin'" but Chris Brown.

(Soundbite of song, "Poppin'")

Mr. CHRIS BROWN (Singer): (Singing) Say what your name is, oh yeah that's pretty, girl. Tell me where you're headed, can I walk...

KAUFMAN: According to the online Internet tracking firm, Big Champagne, "Poppin'" is one of the most widely shared songs on the Internet. But the song probably didn't come off a Chris Brown CD. Today's music lover, says Eric Garland of Big Champagne, are more likely to get their music from the Web.

Mr. ERIC GARLAND (Big Champagne): Apple iTunes commands the overwhelming majority of the legal marketplace for music online. And they are on schedule to sell about a billion songs a year. Unfortunately, people are freely exchanging more than one billion songs a month.

KAUFMAN: In contrast, fewer than 82 million CDs were sold last year. The recording industry had assumed that online music sales would compensate for the inevitable drop in CD sales. But it obviously hasn't worked out that way. And Jerry Del Colliano of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music has some blunt advice for industry executives: it's time to get into another business.

Professor JERRY DEL COLLIANO (Music, University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music): They need to get into the concert business. They need to get into the management business. They need to acquire skills they don't presently have.

KAUFMAN: The recording industry's largest trade association declined comment, citing the lack of its own data on CD sales.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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