Do People Still Buy CDs? YouGov Figured it Was Worth Finding Out

By Tom Pritchard on at

These days any mention of CDs online ends with some snarky mid-30s dude making a comment that goes something like "hur hur, what's a CD?", because digital downloads and streaming has caused people to somehow forget about decades of abundantly available physical media. Those people may be shocked to find that music is still available on compact disc, as a trip to any HMV will tell them. But the question is, with the prominence of digital consumption, and the rising popularity of vinyl, do CDs still have a place in modern life? YouGov decided it was going to find out.

That's right, it's another YouGov post, and because you thought this was a tech site you'll be glad to hear this one is not about dogs or why Geordies seem to hate London so much. The polling organisation decided to find out whether people still bother buying CDs, and whether the format can survive.

According to the newest study 42 per cent of the UK population access music through CDs, while 41 per cent of those CD listeners claim it's their favourite way to consume music. As you would expect, though, those pesky millennial and Gen Z-ers are not as fond of the shiny flat circles as their elders. 53 per cent of CD lovers are over the age of 55, while only 6 per cent are aged 16-24. That'll be because the yunguns grew up with iPods and MP3 players, while the older generations still remember a time where pop-out car stereos and CD changers were a hot commodity. The kind of commodity you'd show off to your friends/would-be customers in a pub car park.

In fact, take a look at the graph below and you'll see that the stats are increasingly skewed towards the older types, perhaps holding onto the olden days (aka the '80s )when CDs were first introduced, and they were in a position to adopt the new (and I presume expensive) tech. And also because cars don't have cassette players anymore. Not that you can buy new cassettes these days.

YouGov also found that the elder generations buying up the CDs meant they didn't really follow modern pop music. Only 6 per cent paid any attention to the charts, and only 15 per cent felt that the music industry was changing for the better. So Justin Bieber (he's still popular, right?) should stick to Spotify and iTunes, while the likes of Michael Bolton and Dire Straits should keep pumping out physical discs.

As for the future of the format, YouGov says there's hope for CDs' survival. 64 per cent of those asked said they still expect to use CDs in five years time, while the 36 per cent who do not have already started moving onto streaming services. But there isn't an inherent incompatibility, since a quarter of CD listeners also use streaming services, and a whopping 71 per cent actually listen to the radio for the music and not the ginger ramblings of Chris Evans. That said the over 55s aren't as big on the streaming option, with only 14 per cent of CD listeners using them. Interestingly 60 per cent of CD listeners preferred the traditional ways of listening to music, 20 per cent of them regular listen to vinyl records.

But can the CD survive long term? It doesn't look like it. 45 per cent of those asked used different methods of accessing music, while 30 per cent felt that they're too old-fashioned. 21 per cent claim to have lost interest, 18 per cent say they're currently too expensive, 16 per cent think they're irrelevant, and 11 per cent think they're too difficult to use. Overall 49 per cent of respondents said they couldn't imagine going back to using CDs at all.

So while the CD may have some life in it yet, them kids look down on them as obsolete and old-fashioned compared to all the digital internet music we have available. So it's only a matter of time before they're gone for good. It might help if they all came with a digital version, to be honest, or at least tell the music industry to fuck off and let people rip copies without technically being criminals.