40 years ago, at the IFA

CD began its campaign to conquer the market – streaming services have now surpassed that achievement many times over

The compact disc format, the CD, was presented to the public for the first time at IFA 1981, 40 years ago. The unprecedented success of this first digital medium soon followed and inspired many further technical advancements. But as with all such innovations, the subsequent developments pushed the pioneers out of the market. Following CD, the first digital compression formats such as mp3, and now streaming services ensure that almost all music and audio programs such as podcasts are available online and everywhere.

Streaming was the main driver behind the music industry in the year 2020*. Paid streaming subscriptions grew by 18.5 per cent last year. By the end of 2020, there were 443 million subscribers to these services worldwide. Total streaming revenue (including paid subscriptions and ad-supported streaming) grew by nearly 20 per cent to reach 13.4 billion US dollars, about 62 per cent of the total global recorded revenue in the music industry. The growth in streaming sales more than offset the decline in sales of other formats. Total sales for 2020 reached 21.6 billion US dollars, an increase of 7.4 per cent.

In Germany, 33 per cent of residents already pay for a subscription to a music streaming service**.

While sales of CD players and devices with CD drives reached five million units alone in Germany at their height of popularity, sales figures had already fallen below one million in 2014. Since then, this market segment has constantly dwindled in importance. Similarly, blank recordable CD sales have dropped significantly. At their peak in 2004, more than 660,000 recordable discs were sold.

History of the compact disc

On 8 March 1979, the Philips group from the Netherlands exhibited the first audio CD and CD player to a professional audience. Shortly thereafter, they officially opened a project with Sony Japan to develop the format. The primary aim of this European-Asian collaboration was to encourage the world to move to the CD format by openly cooperatively developing the new standard.

The invention of the compact disc revolutionised the music industry, spurring audio technology to move from analogue to digital. The new audio medium stood above the rest because of its high sound quality, ease of handling and resistance to scratches, which often made listening to analogue records unpleasant.

Further innovations in digital entertainment were made based on the technology behind the compact disc format. Producers and software developers in the late 1970s and early 1980s could never have imagined that the computer and entertainment industries would one day move to storing software or movies on CDs, and a short time later, on DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

The world’s first mass-produced CD came from Langenhagen near Hanover on 17 August 1982. Music on CDs and players were released publicly for the first time in Japan at the end of 1982, with Europe following in 1983.

* Figures from IFPI, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, representing the music industry worldwide. The IFPI is represented in Germany by the Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI).
** From “The Future of Music Use in Germany” study, carried out by the BVMI and supporting organisations.