On this day in 1982, Sony unveiled the CDP-001 to an unsuspecting public. The world’s first compact disc player was a $2,200 behemoth, and the first compact disc available was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street. In today’s dollars, buying a CD would cost you between $33 and $45. The ridiculous price was no object though, as early adopters bought 20,000 CD players in the first three months. None of the first 50 titles available were metal, unless your definition of metal includes Journey’s Escape and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
We know where the story goes from there. The CD went on to make tons of cash for record labels, as consumers replaced their vinyl/8 track/cassette collection with the superior sound quality of CD. Paying $18 for something that cost a buck or so to manufacture was a huge cash cow. Of course the advent of Napster and other file sharing about a decade ago changed everything, and the CD has been on a rapid decline ever since. CD sales decrease year after year, and while they still sell more than paid downloads for now, it’s no secret that most Americans are listening to the majority of their music illegally. With the decline of CD sales has come the downsizing, consolidation and closing of record labels and brick and mortar stores, like Tower and Virgin. While there are still some purists (like me for example) that like their music in a physical, tangible format, the compact disc is on its last legs.
As an aside, I’d like to give a shout-out to WASP’s The Headless Children, which was the first CD I owned. Anyone remember what yours was?