Dubuque’s Best Buy store can be seen from the front door of Moondog Music, located just across the street on Wacker Drive.
But when it comes to the neighboring retailers’ views on music, the two could not be further apart.
Music publication Billboard reported this week that Best Buy stores will pull CDs from their inventories in July.
The same source also reported another major big-box retailer, Target, is attempting to reach new sales terms with its suppliers of recorded music.
According to the report, Target wants to pay suppliers when an album is sold to a customer, rather than paying up front for the goods. Such a deal could mean Target opts out of CD sales.
The announcements spurred of flurry of national articles suggesting CDs are nearing extinction.
But Mike Schildgen, the longtime manager at Moondog Music, is not buying these stories.
He said sales at the store, located at 806 Wacker Drive, have been steady since the store opened in 1989.
And he thinks there still is plenty of value in grabbing a physical copy of an album.
“What do you really have when you download music? You have nothing,” Schildgen said. “There are a lot of people who still want a physical copy of their music. They want to hold it. They want to look at the liner notes.”
Recent data support the assertion that a sea change is taking place in the recording industry.
The Recording Industry Association of America reported that streaming accounted for 62 percent of all revenues for recorded music in the first half of 2017. Digital downloads accounted for 19 percent and “synch” — the sale of songs for other media purposes — made up 3 percent.
Physical sales of products like records and CDs made up just 16 percent of revenue.
Even within this category, change is afoot.
CD sales were down 3 percent in the first half of 2017 compared to the prior year, while vinyl albums were up 3 percent, according to the RIAA.
Potosi, Wis.-resident Bruce Palmer said he still enjoys buying physical copies of music. He spent some time this week scanning the record selection at CDs 4 Change, a CD and vinyl shop located at 3305 Asbury Road.
Palmer thinks records are in the midst of a major resurgence.
“When CDs first came out everyone flocked to them,” he said. “Now I think there are more people returning to records. They just sound better. There is a warmth to the sound (on records) that you don’t get on CDs.”
Reason for optimism?
John Hackett, who has owned and operated CDs 4 Change since 1998, has adapted to the recent uptick in popularity for vinyl.
At one point in the 2000s, Hackett recalled, he exclusively sold CDs. Now his inventory is split about evenly between CDs and vinyl.
Hackett acknowledged the rise of streaming and digital downloads has taken a substantial bite out of physical sales.
“It has made a huge difference,” Hackett said. “You can go on YouTube and click on a song and listen to it without paying a dime.”
Hackett suggested Best Buy’s decision to abandon CD sales could be a boon for stores like his. He noted that Best Buy often sold the items as a loss leader, luring customers into the store in hopes that they would buy something else.
“The fact that Best Buy won’t sell them anymore, I think that has to help us a little bit,” he said.
Something to hold
Kenny Link was a longtime customer at CDs 4 Change before he started working at the store about a year ago.
He worked as a paper delivery boy to save up enough money to buy his first album at CDs 4 Change. He still recalls the specific CD — Hotel California by the Eagles — with great pride.
Link admitted that he has occasionally purchased music online, but he said those transactions have not carried the same kind of emotional attachment. “I can’t remember the first album I bought on iTunes,” he said.
Kyle Grant, an employee at Moondog Music, also believes music lovers will continue to gravitate to independent stores.
Late Tuesday morning, Grant cued up a song from the new album by singer-songwriter Kyle Craft. The 2018 tune hearkened back to rock legends like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
As the song filled the store, Grant suggested that its familiar feel could be a metaphor for the fate of record stores
“A lot of musicians today are going for that vintage sound,” Grant remarked. “That’s kind of the way things go with music. All good things come around again.”