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Rise of online streaming to see end of CD era?

With sales plunging, shop owners say they can no longer rely solely on CDs and DVDs to stay afloat.

Siva Selan
3 minute read
Owners of CD and DVD shops say demand has plunged over the years, exacerbated by the rise of online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Spotify.
Owners of CD and DVD shops say demand has plunged over the years, exacerbated by the rise of online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Spotify.

While CDs and DVDs were once the height of home entertainment, businesses which used to make a killing from copies of the latest albums and movies are now struggling to get by as the age of online streaming services threatens to put an end to the compact disc era.

For many, the situation had been challenging for some time now but the real threat came with the Covid-19 pandemic which saw online streaming services like Netflix, Spotify and Apple Music rake in record profits as restrictions on movements kept many at home.

Operators of CD shops who spoke to MalaysiaNow said they were now in a dying business.

Sivakkumar, who has sold CDs at his shop in Shah Alam for decades, said he is already planning to start a new business as the demand for CDs and DVDs has plunged dramatically over the years.

He said his sales were heavily affected when the government introduced the goods and services tax (GST) some six years ago.

“Sales went down so much,” he recalled.

Things became even worse after that as online streaming services started to gain momentum and even hardcore movie lovers no longer came to buy as many CDs.

Sivakkumar struggled on but these days, he gets hardly any sales at all.

In the pre-GST days, he recorded sales of RM1,000 to RM1,500 each month. Now, even RM100 is something to be thankful for.

He told MalaysiaNow that he and his partner are in the process of clearing out old stock, offering CDs for as low as RM5.

“Sometimes we charge even less because we are thankful that people even consider buying CDs in this digital era.”

Another problem for Sivakkumar is the fact that many of the movie makers and artists whose work he carries are no longer producing CDs or DVDs. His shop deals mostly with Bollywood films and Tamil movies and songs, many of which are now released directly online through streaming services.

“Only English movies and music albums have CDs but we are no longer taking in new stock,” he said.

Over in Petaling Jaya, the situation is much the same. Wallace, who owns a CD shop there, said his sales have gone down by as much as 50%.

He has managed to keep his business going by selling other items as well such as decorative ornaments and paintings, but CD sales are undeniably lower these days.

“We try to sell CDs at their original price,” he said. “We only give discounts if customers buy in large quantities.”

Wallace, whose CDs are mostly of Chinese movies and songs, said he also has regular customers from the older generation who pop into his shop every now and then looking for old albums and shows.

But he agreed that younger customers now seem to prefer online streaming services to CDs.

The change in user behaviour is perhaps best seen in last year’s closure of Speedy Video Distributors Sdn Bhd which, for over 30 years, was the go-to place for movie and music enthusiasts on the hunt for CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

With the Covid-19 pandemic hastening the move online for many businesses trying to survive in the so-called new norm, most have turned to digital platforms in order to stay afloat.

But, as Sivakkumar told MalaysiaNow, even that might not be enough to salvage the CD and DVD business.

“The world has changed,” he said.