Why is Classical So Committed to CDs?

Thursday 26th January 2023

Digital Marketing Manager, Jordan, answers the age-old question; “Why can’t everything just be on a computer?”

Part plastic cheese, part data storage.

As one of the youngest people in the WildKat office, I have very little experience with different audio formats. I remember looking at the CD charts in the supermarket to see what to ask for at Christmas and being a penniless teenager and risking a virus to download music from software I’ll leave unnamed (let’s call the software ‘Citrus-Cable’) and I remember my dad spending hours transferring MP3 files onto MiniDiscs as he tried to tell me about how ‘these will be the future of music’.

As you can see, the future of music was not an overpriced, processed-cheese box, nor did it knock the mighty CD off its throne. In classical, the dominant way that people consume is the CD. At the WildKat office, our CD shelves take up 5 times as much space as the other shelves. As streaming apps have started dominating the pop music world as the main way that music is consumed, as well as the modern vinyl resurgence saving a dwindling music industry, this raises the question, why is classical music still attached to CD?

The answer is simple – CD has a much better audio quality. Vinyl gives you the nostalgic hiss and the unique experience of listening to vinyl, but those who listen to classical music are looking at the music from a technical and clean point of view. Compression undoubtedly causes debate amongst any level of audiophile, but classical music has still attached itself to the CD as the preferred format, rather than following the same trends as pop music. 

We can see from the rise of Idagio and Qobuz, as well as Apple Music’s acquisition of Primephonic, an eventual shift for classical music onto streaming services has been long overdue. There seems to be a belief that streaming services do not provide the audio quality that you need to hear all the nuances of an orchestra, but as we get deeper into the digital age, this is visibly becoming proven wrong with specialist classical streaming services providing lossless audio quality – which gives more accurate and better quality sound than CDs. 

So although classical took no interest in the vinyl resurgence, as more options for high-quality streaming become available, we can see the streaming revolution being the way that the industry moves forward. We only hope that we see a meta-data and financial revolution for the musicians that sees them paid more fairly.

Getting your music onto the digital service platforms (DSPs) for streaming can raise some challenges as an independent artist, so it’s important to do your research and find the right distributor for you. For classical music, strict meta-data rules need to be followed that don’t apply to other genres of music. Because of this, not all distributors upload classical music, so you have to be super careful when looking at different options.

Keep an eye out for one of our following newsletters as we give some pros and cons on a range of distributors suitable for classical music.