What happens if/when CD goes away?

There are some dire predictions floating around with regard to CD's long-term future. Although some might be too ambitious in their proclamations (I don't think the majors will be out of the CD game by the end of this year), most do seem to centre on sometime between now and mid 2013 as the time for the great inflection point, where the majority of acts sell more on download than on CD.

Similarly, I've heard from a number of sources that by 2015, CD sales are predicted to be at best about one-twentieth their all-time peak (currently, CD sales are about a quarter what they were in 2004). In the last two years, capacity for disc manufacture has halved, and the optical disc fabricating plants that were closed have been torn down rather than mothballed. There comes a point when hundreds of millions of discs sold per year become millions of discs that the very viability of disc production is called into question, and as the future of gaming, home video and computer software is in the Cloud, it's conceivable that could happen mid-decade.

AFAIK, optical disc manufacturer does not scale down well, because it requires a lot of fabrication stages, often under clean room conditions. In contrast, you can cram a 1m album per year pressing plant into a space not much bigger (or cleaner) than a small Kwik Fit. Meanwhile, if the computer industry treats optical drive the way it has treated the floppy disc, by the end of the decade you might struggle to find a single maker of lasers suitable for the task.

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