Compact Disc era


In 1983, Philips Industries in conjunction with the Sony Corporation became the first recording company to issue classical and popular music on compact discs, making digital recordings for new product and using the Soundstream process for these recordings. It was introduced in America by way of a television broadcast that year:-

Philips and its subsidiaries also re-issued many of its pre-digital stereo and mono recordings on compact disc, by transferring the original analogue tape recordings and then utilising a digital tape recorder during subsequent mixing and mastering. Philips and DuPont partnered in setting up a CD manufacturing plant in both Blackburn, Lancashire and in North Carolina, called PDO. The digital format was enormously successful and by the end of the 1980s, a vast catalogue of new recordings and re-mastered material was generally available. As might be expected, vinyl record sales fell away.

Sony & Philips had put a lot of money and research into compact discs and it was important for them that it would be well received by other record companies. In the event, at the initial presentation at Billboard's Music Industry Conference in the U.S. of the compact disc system, the industry's execs. were underwhelmed, almost cynical. It took some time for them to be won over before every record company issued CDs.

The very first CD ever to be commercially released has never quite been agreed upon. Some argue it was by Abba 'The Visitors' whilst others claim it was the Japanese release of Billy Joel's '52nd Street' in October 1982, both of which were on the CBS label. There is a certain irony in this as CBS Records in the USA were totally indifferent about the Sony & Philips' compact disc sound carrier to begin with but then in 1988 when CDs had become universally accepted, Sony bought CBS Records.

But back in 1983, sales were lightweight to begin with as few people owned a CD player and they were initially expensive. In the summer of 1985, Philips Industries - again in conjunction with Sony - went ‘on the road’ to promote the compact disc in a big way. This was built around a major European tour that was being undertaken by Dire Straits to promote their double CD album, Brothers In Arms. Philips and Sony underwrote the tour. The success of this promotion was reflected in the album being the first million-selling CD. By the end of 1983, 800,000 CDs had been sold across the world but in 1991, 333 million were sold in that one year alone.

However, vinyl LPs have started to make a big comeback over the past few years. In 2014, nine million were sold in the USA with a further 1.3 million in the UK. In 2015 the sales of vinyl in the UK had virtually doubled to 2.1 million; and by the end of 2016, more than three million LPs were sold - the first time that threshold has been passed since 1991, a report from the British Phonographic Industry (the BPI) revealed in January 2017.

Dire Straits: Brothers In Arms
Invitation to Compact Disc launch by Polygram Record Group in 1983   Dire Straits Double CD album: Brothers In Arms