CD sales

Releasing Music: Physical Album Versus Streaming

Last year, Best Buy decided to stop selling CDs and physical albums partly due to record labels’ increasing reluctance to even issue them. Both choices are symptoms as well as causes of a seemingly inevitable trend: Buying music is now going out of style nearly as fast as streaming music is rising. We kinda know this a decade ago, right? Nothing new here. Of course, we go digital all the way!


Yes, going digital all the way seems like the smartest thing to do. Everyone kinda knows this. However, what matters more is the actual earnings.

Although it might be a smart move for big labels to stop releasing CDs, for smaller indie musicians, it is still wiser to release music in physical format before going the digital route. No, this isn’t just sales talk because we are a CD/Vinyl company, this is based on a report by Forbes titled: Physical Albums Sell Significantly Better Than Digital Ones

It says there that:

People have been saying for a long time that the physical album is done, but the category is responsible for more money coming into the music industry than digital album and song sales combined. All forms of physical purchases added up to $1.5 billion in the U.S. last year. CD sales experienced a big hit, losing 10 million sales from the year prior, though at 87.6 million copies moved, they still performed better than their digital counterparts.

As has been the case for several years now, vinyl remains the one format of music that must be bought outright that continues to grow my any noticeable measure, though it’s still not responsible for much money pouring to the industry. Vinyl sales increased by fewer than 1 million copies in 2017, and total purchases now stand at just over 15.5 million.

So what does this mean, dear friends? Well…it means that although it seems like selling physical albums is a total waste of money in this day and age, it really isn’t. Wait no, It absolutely isn’t!!!

As a matter of fact, it can bring you MUCH MORE MONEY not just on physical sales but also on streaming sales (which you will eventually do, of course).

Not convinced?

Allow us to introduce to you our client, TOM Mcdonald. I’m sure you’ve heard of him and if you haven’t, you should check him out on Youtube. Tom is a Canadian rapper now based in LA. He releases his awesome music videos on Youtube.

physical album, Releasing Music: Physical Album Versus Streaming

BUT before that, he would sell a limited number of physical albums and merch on his website first.

physical album CD tom mcdonald

Why do you think he does this? Here are just two reasons:

  1. Physical sales still remains the biggest source of MONEY(as stated by the report above). And even if you think the report above is rubbish because you’re a cynical creature…and you say. Biggest? Really?!? Then okay, maybe not the biggest but we all know we can still earn from CD/USB/ Vinyl and merch sales! So why stop doing something that can give you money?
  2. PROMOTION for your brand and your digital goods. Even if only 25% of your fans actually buy your CD (which is why, it’s great to do pre-order and btw, we press CDs 50 pcs at a time if you want to minimize your risk), 100% of them would know you have an album out. This legitimizes you as a musician! This would make them look forward to your album release. Trust us. It makes you LEGIT and AWESOME if you still release physical albums.

So…now what?

If you have an album coming out and you’re contemplating whether it’s still worth it to do physical albums like CD/Vinyl/USB, please do. People still buy them!

The best thing is to do a limited number of physical albums, charge $20.00 (like Tom MacDonald), then once you think you have sold all the physical copies…that’s the time you release your music to the digital platforms. Tom sells his CDs for $20, which he pays us for a dollar or less per unit. Imagine how much more money you’ll make. Seriously!

Besides, what are you going to sell on your  gigs and tour if you don’t make those CDs?


James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.

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