Digital vs Physical: Music

Digital music vs physical music. It’s an ongoing fight since iTunes began in 2003 where more and more people are switching to buy digital music from iTunes and other streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music (among others). However there is still a bunch of us that are hanging on to the old ones for numerous reasons so I thought I would do some pros and cons of both, then give my experience. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this so pleeaassee keep reading!


So digital music really began in 1991 when the MP3 file was invented by the Fraunhofer Institute then 6 years later in 98, was created, the first website to offer MP3 files as well as a subscription service. Then the music recognition app, Shazam, launched in 99, developed by some Californian students. In 2001 the first iPod was introduced and in 2003, iTunes was founded, which now covers 70% of digital music sales. Since then other streaming platforms such as Spotify and YouTube entered the scene, making digital music the most accessible kind in this era of technology.
So what’s so good about it?

– It’s extremely accessible, so long as you have a computer/laptop/phone.
– You have a library of millions of tracks at your finger tips.
– It makes it easier for independent artists to break into the business.

– They lack the satisfaction of going out and physically having a copy of an album in your hands.
– It’s much easier to lose the music and thus your money (deleting them, files getting corrupt etc)


Physical music has obviously been around much longer than digital and first started in 1877 with the Phonograph Cylinder, invented by Mr Thomas Edison. This was the earliest form of recording music. Then in about 89, the Phonographic Disk or Gramaphone Record came about, which was the first disk and essentially, what vinyl is now (I mean now it’s a little modified but still). In 98, Wire Recording was introduced which was a precursor to tapes. Over the years discs and wire recording formats evolved and it wasn’t until 1982 that we actually got CDs as we know them today. In actual fact, Sony had come out with the Compact Cassette in 63 and Philips were working on the Compact Disc to rival that. Funnily enough Sony were also working on the same thing and they eventually came together to make it happen. And for physical music, we’re met today with the comeback of Vinyl, which were on a decline until in 2008 when the sales doubled and have been going up ever since.

– The satisfaction of having a physical product either that you’ve created or that you can buy.
– They can make a band more money. For example whilst initially putting it online is cheaper, they make only a few pence per song sold however a band could bring 500 CDs on tour (printing cost on average for 500 copies is about £500), sell them each for £10 and make loads more.
– Much harder to lose.
– Whilst it’s difficult to hear, CDs actually allow for better quality audio, unlike online which only allows MP3 (this is one of the most compressed formats of audio, compared to a FLACC file, which’ll have a richer sound)

– More expensive
– They physically take up more space

Overall, there are valid points for both sides on about an equal balance and quite frankly, it comes down to your preference. So here’s my stance:

So until probably a few months ago, I’ve always been about using my MP3 player and buy physical CDs to listen to. I respected that other people liked digital music, but I’ve never even put it in my head to do it. However.
I’ve had a Spotify account for a while and it wasn’t until I came to uni and started getting into a larger range of music that I began using the service a lot more to listen to my new favourite bands whose music I can’t physically get hold of. And of course, if I could (for a reasonable price), I would in a heartbeat. But I’ve found the service incredibly useful for finding new music and artists and I’ve found myself in a position where I want to buy the premium service (£5-10/month) because whilst travelling on the train today, I got frustrated when I couldn’t listen to the songs I wanted to. And that’s made me rethink my stance on digital music. I still believe in only buying CDs (for myself – not bashing the digi-buyers), but would buying Spotify premium go against that? And would it be worth it? I honestly would love to know your thoughts and quite frankly, advice, on this situation.

So. Where do you stand? Are you a Digi-Geek or a Physi-Freak? (that sounded a lot cooler in my head…) Let me know down below!

Byee!! 🙂

References if you’re interested:

The Pros and Cons of Buying Music Online
The Interaction of Physical Music Formats – Interactive Timeline
Timeline of Audio Formats
Wire Recording
What the Vinyl Records Comeback Really Looks Like
CD vs MP3: The Big Debate
Pure Music Manufacturing
The Pros and Cons of Vinyl, CD, Cassette and Digital in 2013, and How To Get Started Releasing Them



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