Printing CDs in 2019...Yikes!!
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
Printing music into physical units, like CDs or Vinyl records, might be a fun way to "touch" your digital art form. This way, you bring something that comes out of your imaginary into the real world, almost like you felt that, finally those two dimensions (abstract and physical) met each other. If it is a vinyl that you are printing, for sure, nothing beats the touch, the smell, and even the static electricity felt out of freshly printed vinyl.
Now the question that you might be asking yourself regarding Printing CDs is:
Should I do it?
I will not provide to you a straight Yes/No answer, as I don't have the right to tell you what you should do with your art, but, I will just provide you my point of view on such subject. I will share some of my past experiences, plus some thoughts and statistic data, which might help you to make up your mind about such a topic.
"Evolution is the key", a cheesy phrase, but in this case it actually makes sense. As times go by and as technology evolves, things tend to be replaced, and even people tend to be replaced if they do not develop a set of expertise that would meet the current market demands. If you took a look into the past, there is a line of events where the physical source of music reproduction kept being replaced progressively by newer technology. What comes right into to my mind, was that, when I was a kid, I used to listen to cassettes, then CDs came, which brought a cleaner signal that wouldn't be damaged over time (unless your cat scratched it). This was just an example, as there were other ways of displaying music into a physical item, which, over time came into misuse or became, sort of "niche", like vinyl for example.
Nowadays, if you are considering distributing your music via CDs, you must consider some stats, like the ones given on https://www.statista.com/chart/12950/cd-sales-in-the-us/
As you can see in the graphic, CD sales hit the top mark in the 2000s with 943 million units sold, which is, pretty impressive. In 2018 it dropped to 52 million, and the tendency seems to keep heading into near extinction.
On my personal experience, I had worked with clients who decided in a recent past to print their music into CDs. They invested in printing and promoting their work, however, what they all mention is that most of their sales came from digital platforms, and barely sold any CD units. In fact, some of their followers mentioned that they don't have CD players or any other source who would be able to read such a physical format... If you think about it, even laptops these days miss the "good old" CD drive (or even the DVD drive really), Car stereos have Pen inputs, and that's it.
We tend to learn from mistakes, and nowadays, if I would be an artist who had the urge to print my music into a physical unit, I would consider a few points like:
Goals - because printing music to a physical unit might come up as a personal desire rather than a profitability matter;
Profitability - How much it will cost, and how could you use that capital to better distribute, or promote your music;
Who you are targetting - It is important to consider your genre, as it would not be so out if this world if you decided to get your Classy Jazzy House Music into vinyl, or even Synthwave into cassettes. This of course depends on the niche that you are targetting.
As I said before, music is art, therefore, there is no absolute truth, just make sure you are confident about what your next step is.
Hope you have enjoyed the read! Best, Telmo