How Mozart outsold Beyonce in CD sales in 2016 Mozart sold the largest number of CDs in 2016. (Wikimedia Commons/AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
How Mozart outsold Beyonce in CD sales in 2016
Lexile

During 2016, Adele, Kanye West, Beyonce and Drake all did more than fine when it came to shilling their music. But when it came to selling good old-fashioned compact discs, buyers went decidedly old school. According to Lars Brandle at Billboard, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart sold the largest number of CDs. Some 1.25 million discs were sold since the classical composer's box set was released Oct. 28.
 
No, it doesn't signify some cultural shift, though recent reports show young people are becoming pretty big squares. The rise of Mozart to the top of the charts comes from what might be a technicality. Decca, Deuthsche Gramophone and the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation collaborated on Mozart 225. They created what may be the most epic boxed set of music ever produced. It is a $500, 200-CD compilation including every scrap of music Mozart ever wrote down. The limited edition set sold 6,250 units in its first five weeks. That translates into 1.25 million CDs, putting it at the top of the charts.
 
The set was released to celebrate the 225th anniversary of Mozart's death. It is record-setting in many other ways. Music critic A.J. Goldman at The Wall Street Journal reports that it weighs in at 25 pounds and includes 4,000 tracks and 240 hours of music, including some of the great performances of the last 100 years and alternate versions performed on period instruments. Goldman writes that he admires the set, but wonders who the audience for it really is.
 
"Admittedly, there is something admirable about such an obsessive approach. But how many people will want to listen to six discs of Handel arrangements, two discs of fragments and seven discs of works of doubtful authenticity?" he writes. "It's difficult to imagine anyone who isn't a music historian slogging through the "fragments" discs, where most of the tracks are under one minute and the shortest is 15 seconds."
 
Still, the set has hit a nerve with Mozart-obsessives.
 
"It is wonderful to see the reaction to this box set, which is the fruit of years of scholarship, planning and curation," Paul Moseley, the director of Mozart 225 tells Brandle. "Mozart's immortal melodies, no less than the Beatles or Abba, are in some way part of all our lives, and this edition is the perfect way to celebrate that on his 225th anniversary."
  
While it may seem like a crazy fluke that classical music has overtaken pop music in CD sales, Jordan Passman at Forbes reports that it makes sense. Sales of physical CDs hit a record low of 50 million in 2016, an 11 percent drop from 2015. On the other hand, streaming services and digital downloads for pop music are hitting new highs. Passman points out that while many music listeners are moving to those digital services, classical music fans are sticking by CDs, which are still the standard format for most listeners (anyone who has had iTunes or another music management platform confuse composers, conductors, soloists, orchestras and rearrange movements understands why).
 
Passman also says this particular collection is selling because of its novelty.
 
"While you could easily carry this entire collection on a thumb drive or upload it to the cloud, there's still a charm and romanticism in the concept of holding the tangible product, especially when it's a collection or anthology," he writes.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might music on CD outsell music in digital format?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (12)
  • arianam-
    3/03/2017 - 08:41 a.m.

    Probably because CD's have been around for so long, and is still around, people use them. Also, on a CD you can put multiple songs just by that one singer or composer. Finally, in the last paragraph Passman says, "...especially when its a collection..." So if the collection is rare, it would be really special or worth money, while digital formats aren't special because everyone everywhere uses it.

  • amirahd-
    3/03/2017 - 01:02 p.m.

    i like how they tell us about the old cds

  • natalies-
    3/06/2017 - 08:46 a.m.

    People who listen to classical music stick to CD's because iTunes and other kinds music managements rearrange the music, so it does not sound like the original piece that the listeners are looking for.

  • carlosj-
    3/07/2017 - 01:02 p.m.

    maybe some people want to keep it as a collection and save it for the future just in case it go's up in price.

  • angelal-atk
    3/07/2017 - 01:27 p.m.

    Because there is always a possibility of losing you digital music and some people just prefer CD's.

  • saraip-
    3/09/2017 - 08:45 a.m.

    I think this is really cool how someone from so many years ago, music can live on like that and still have huge hits on their song. like it really cool.

  • zaviera-bur
    3/13/2017 - 12:53 p.m.

    People most likely bought this album because this is a delicate piece and also very authentic. Also I think they should've done the 225th anniversary of his birth. this relates to me because if I was Mozart and still knew what was going on while being dead I'd be mad because they're celebrating something depressing.

  • ahnad-orv
    3/15/2017 - 02:54 p.m.

    I'm not surprised that Beyonce out sold Mozart in CD sales last year. Most people listen to Beyonce more than Mozart. Beyonce also released a new album last year,which Mozart is no longer capable of doing.

  • zlily-dav
    3/16/2017 - 08:55 p.m.

    In response to “How Mozart outsold Beyonce in CD sales in 2016,” I found this article interesting for three reasons. First, I learned how much CD sales decreased in 2016 compared to previous years. In the article, it states, “Sales of physical CDs hit a record low of 50 million in 2016, an 11 percent drop from 2015.” I am not surprised that CD sales have dropped. In fact, I am surprised the number isn’t lower. Most people I know use iTunes to purchase music and do not buy CDs. I also thought this article was interesting because I was surprised to learn that people are actually buying music by Mozart. The article states, “According to Lars Brandle at Billboard, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart sold the largest number of CDs. Some 1.25 million discs were sold since the classical composer's box set was released Oct. 28.” Even though this number is inflated because of how the boxed set is packaged, I am still surprised that young people would be interested in classical music. It is hard to believe that someone like Beyonce could actually be out sold in CD sales, especially by Mozart. Lastly, I also learned some information about how people prefer to get their music. For example, in the article it states, “On the other hand, streaming services and digital downloads for pop music are hitting new highs. Passman points out that while many music listeners are moving to those digital services, classical music fans are sticking by CDs, which are still the standard format for most listeners (anyone who has had iTunes or another music management platform confuse composers, conductors, soloists, orchestras and rearrange movements understands why).” I guess it makes sense to me that people who are into classical music stick to CDs while people who are into pop prefer to download music. Pop music “hits” change all the time and it would be expensive to have to buy whole CDs just for a song or two. Classical music is, well, “classical” and doesn’t change so an investment in CDs makes more sense. Even though some people may think that people should ditch CDs altogether, I can see now that there are instances where it makes sense to buy a CD instead of downloading music.

  • dahianad-ver
    3/17/2017 - 12:04 p.m.

    I think that music on CD's outsell music in digital format because music on CD's is something that is physical and you can keep forever. On digital format, there's many ways you could lose them and everyone can have that way of music. Having a CD has more value and later as time goes on, you can listen back at it and remember the meaning it has, as for digital format you won't always have it as a special meaning and other people will have access to the same thing.

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