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Rrolack Aug 7, 2017

I've read that, despite the continued popularity of physical music in Japan, physical music sales are falling by more than 10% each year.  Here are a few (admittedly old) articles about the phenomenon:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-enter … 13133.html
http://fortune.com/2014/09/18/japan-cd-sales/


A question I'll raise is: what does this phenomenon mean for the future of VGM?  Will there be a day when physical releases start falling out of favor?  If so, might that day be not so far off?


As one piece of information, vgmdb has a graph showing the number of VGM releases by year (below).  This shows that the number of official releases peaked in 2013, though 2017 may exceed that mark by year-end.

http://vgmdb.net/db/statistics.php?do=release_year

Qui-Gon Joe Aug 7, 2017

Warning: lots of conjecture and anecdotal evidence incoming!

This topic is something that I've been thinking about a fair amount lately.  I'm at the point where I need to find yet another CD tower to add for more albums (and of course the style I chose from Ikea is one they discontinued so it's back to scouring Craigslist AGAIN).  Years ago when I had the opportunity to get more at a really cheap price I didn't because I assumed at some point I would no longer be able to continue buying my game music physically and there would be no point.  Yet somehow that still hasn't happened - in fact my last two trips to Japan have yielded MORE physical albums than the several years before that.  I'm surprised by just how much is still being released on CDs!

Now having just been in Japan less than a month ago, here's what I've seen.  While it is true that many, many stores lingering from the bubble economy from when I lived in Japan over a decade ago are now closed (I have an odd addiction to taking photos of closed down places that look like I would have loved shopping at back in the day), most of the major ones I used to shop at are still around and thriving.  I have no difficulty finding all of the albums I'm looking for after running through Akiba a few times on a given trip.  Tower Records is always SUPER packed and has a huge selection, along with many, many other places.  SOME places there have shifted their focus from CDs to trading cards (shifting from one physical collectible to another is probably a whole other conversation), but many places seem to be going just as strong as before.

All that being said, my focus is always pretty much entirely on game music when I'm there.  And not using it as a pejorative, but I do think that *nerds* are more likely to *collect* in general.  Take a look at the recent surge of limited physical prints of video games that more or less got started by the surprisingly popularity of Limited Run Games.  I think that the hardcore collector market is just enough to make it worth doing smaller runs of physical media still.  This is totally a guess on my part, but I'm thinking that's why VGM in its physical collectible form hasn't died out yet, and won't at least for some time.  I mean seriously, two of the albums I picked up this summer are physical releases for downloadable Switch games that barely anybody probably played to begin with, compared to mass market games (Blaster Master Zero and Kamiko). 

Will our hobby collapse at some point and disappear?  Maybe, but right now it seems we're in a much, much better place than ten-years-ago-me would have expected.  As long as there is a small but dedicated enthusiast population buying stuff from their favorite movies/anime/games/whatever, CDs seem like a REALLY easy way to make some cash off of that crowd compared to more complicated-to-manufacture stuff like statues/figures/whatever else.

Qui-Gon Joe Aug 7, 2017 (edited Aug 7, 2017)

Another random thought on this whole thing is that while it seems (again, anecdotally) VGM releases on CD aren't really slowing down that much in terms of number of releases, I would be willing to be the actual print runs of a lot of soundtracks are dropping significantly.  After missing out on the Soul Calibur V release and then the amount of time and effort it took to track down one of the Corpse Party CDs, I realized that we've probably reached the point that if you want something or think you're going to want something later but aren't quite sure, GET IT.  I think many of the newer VGM releases are going to be on sale for a very brief time and then vanish and become super expensive (or at least just very hard to find) second-hand.  I keep ending up with a number of albums on each Japan trip that are for music for games I haven't played yet but plan to, and I just want to make sure I CAN get the CD before it's impossible to locate.

Edit: Thought of a couple other examples.  No More Heroes 2?  Should have bought it.  STUPID expensive now if you find it in Japan.  Okamiden?  Glad I bought it.  Also stupid expensive.  And those aren't that old, and I remember seeing both of them sitting on shelves and readily available for decent prices just a little while ago.  Something to think about for those of us who are still collecting!

Zorbfish Aug 7, 2017

Qui-Gon Joe wrote:

I realized that we've probably reached the point that if you want something or think you're going to want something later but aren't quite sure, GET IT.

Yep, the bane of my wallet. About 5 years ago you could wait awhile after an album was released, to batch order, and still have confidence that it will be in stock in most web stores. Now, I'm afraid to pass the half year mark on anything I really am interested in. I got onto a Gust kick recently and started buying Atelier albums again only to find some are really expensive already. Still kicking myself on missing the anniversary box.

GoldfishX Aug 8, 2017

I echo that sentiment...It's not going to die out, but there certainly isn't going to be a guarantee of a plentiful supply either. And really, I'm okay with that...the digital folks get their 1's and 0's that they download, the physical media folks get their physical media, which ends up with a higher potential to increase in value because of the lower supply. It's two different markets, really. I'm noticing the same trend Joe is with niche heavy metal CD's. Albums I snagged for $10 a year or two ago blow up in value once the supply dries up.

longhairmike Aug 8, 2017 (edited Aug 8, 2017)

i had been thinking about trading in my 2012 honda pilot for a kia niro hybrid,, and then i learned that NONE of the niro trims are even available with a cd player (not even as an option)... that was an immediate disqualification. i think ill drive my pilot (with 650w cd system that rips cds to mp3s and saves them on the 25gb HDD) for at least another 10 years.

Qui-Gon Joe Aug 8, 2017

I was wondering when cars would stop coming with CD players.  I'm WAY too paranoid about losing a rare album to ever take originals in cars, so I'm loving the usb port in my new car (I also tend to listen to game rips as mp3s in the car vs. published OSTs on disc in the house).  That said, I was kind of relieved that when I went car shopping in the spring, Subaru still includes CD players as standard along with all the fancy newer features.

jb Aug 8, 2017

CDs aren't at any risk of going away. Thirded the sentiment of "if you want it, get it" because things are less common. If anything, CDs will move more into the collectors market that Vinyl has for years, where everything will be limited quantity, limited print run, and there will be a huge secondary market for things. You can already see this happening with these really cool niche companies like Brave Wave, Data Discs, Wayo, Mondo, etc. They are passionate members of the VGM (or general music enthusiasts) who take their passion and turn it into a company. I hope that's not the case though, because it'll be really annoying to get things from Japan given their proclivity for ignoring outside markets and/or customers entirely.

Also, linking an article from 3 years ago isn't really making a great case for your view lol.

TerraEpon Aug 8, 2017

Yeah I just use a USB stick for car listening as well. I've had my car for two years and never once put a CD in it.

Judgment Day Aug 13, 2017 (edited Aug 13, 2017)

It has been forever and a day since I've even gone to this site, much less made a post. Looks like I missed a lot, as the site and the forums got a bit of a facelift. Meanwhile...

My take is that I'm hoping that the trend doesn't fall off, but it's become a bit (not drastically) more niche to purchase, own, and utilize a CD on a habitual basis. I still continue to purchase video game music soundtracks after almost 25 years, but it's like society doesn't make it as convenient to play CDs. I bought a 2nd vehicle a few months ago that doesn't even come with a CD player, and I feel less of a need to get a set of CDs in my day-to-day car that actually has a player in it. I moved almost three years ago, and one of my few unpacked boxes is a part of my CD collection.

Another thing is that I don't really play video games a lot anymore. I still keep an open ear, watch gaming channels, and still contribute to the fighting game community. But the days of going home and putting in a few hours has definitely ended. So I don't know what's good or bad since I'm not as familiar with the gaming lineup and their respective titles. Unless I get back into things, nostalgia is really all that's left.

Maybe it's my lifestyle changing, I dunno. I know there's no way this would happen if this was the "me" in 1998 or even 2010.

longhairmike Aug 14, 2017

its called life, and it beats the shit out of your free time.
i think i'm still the oldest regular here at 43.

Pedrith Aug 15, 2017

Hi.  I don't see the cd as dying out, but I have noticed that soundtrack releases for anime and some games are being bundled together, or taking years to be released (Naruto Shippuden III).  In my case I imported Danmachi to get the soundtracks.  I also learned that some cds are not being allowed to be sold outside of Japan (I'm looking at you newest Fairy Tail collection), but I have yet to hear why, which is disheartening.

I have aslo imported cds to try new things to see if I like them: Wasabi, Yoshida Brothers, Wagakki Band although do to the exchange rate and my limited apartment space it is getting less and less.

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