Digital music downloads are in freefall. 2018 saw a huge drop with digital song sales down by 28.8% and digital album sales down by 21.8% from the previous year. That’s according to BuzzAngle Music, a music consumption analysis firm, which just released its 2018 Year-End Report detailing how folk in the US consume music (click here for the full report).
CD sales are also down – no surprise there – and while vinyl and cassettes enjoyed a bump (11.9% and 18.9% respectively) pundits have said that the once-explosive growth of analogue formats is starting to plateau.
This means that more than ever, people are turning to streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and even YouTube to listen to music. While older generations (eg Gen-Xers, baby boomers, older millennials) may listen to and buy music on vinyl, CDs and cassettes, Gen-Zers, who are younger than millennials, likely don’t even own a turntable, CD player or cassette deck. Even mainstream DJ software like Serato DJ has started to include streaming services, while apps like djay for iOS and Virtual DJ 2018 continue to improve streaming integrations.
What’s next for us DJs?
As the world turns to music streaming, we face a harsh truth: the music download is dying. If it disappeared completely, the casual music fan couldn’t care less – why buy something digital when you can listen to it for free anywhere you want to, instantly? But to us digital DJs, this opens a whole can of worms that affects the fundamental way we work. The MP3 “died” back in 2017, and it’s not a stretch to think that something as big as the iTunes Store would one day shutter – there were closure rumours back in 2018 – and even Beatport is allegedly getting into the streaming game this year.
However, the music download will likely live on as a niche consumption outlet, similar to how vinyl continues to stick around, and us DJs will still be able to spin with music files for the foreseeable future. For now though, think about this hypothetical scenario: The iTunes Store has closed, Beatport is a full-on streaming site without downloads, and DJ download pools have turned into “DJ streaming pools”. What would you do?
Would you embrace streaming and playing tracks from streaming sites in your DJ sets? Would you buy physical copies of music (let’s say they survive “download doomsday”) and rip them to your library for playing at your shows? Or would you just go back to spinning with CDs and vinyl?
So, over to you: What would YOU do? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.