CD Retailers

Ethical shopping guide to buying CDs, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to buying CDs, from Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This guide is part of our series looking at alternatives to shopping on Amazon. 

This guide includes:

  • ethical and environmental ratings of 21 CD retailers
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • the growth of digital listening


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Best Buys

as of Sept/Oct 2013

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.

The Best Buys for buying CDs are:

* your local independent record shop

* buying direct from the artist or label or

* buying second hand from Oxfam or other second-hand shops. is a good independent source of specialist music if you want to buy CDs online.

For classical music CDs, best buys are Presto Classical, and MDT Classics.

to buy

Image: CDs


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Related Content

How to Avoid Amazon



Buying CDs without Amazon



This is our guide to shopping without using Amazon, looking this time at companies that sell music CDs as well as music in newer digital formats such as downloadable MP3 files and online music streaming services.

This diversity of platforms reflects how our listening habits are changing and, at the same time, shaping both cyberspace and the high street.

We discovered, by making purchases online, how many other online music businesses are now routing sales through tax havens in a similar manner to Amazon. So it’s important to be on your guard about who you switch to.


Image: ethical guide to CD retailers


The growth of digital listening


With such dramatic changes to music buying habits, it’s difficult to get a handle on the current state of play, and sales figures differ wildly. One thing is for sure though – the balance of power is now shifting to online digital music from physical CDs and it’s only the rate of change that is a matter for debate.

According to market analysis from Mintel, between 2007 and 2011 the value of digital music sales rose from £100m to £400m per year. Over the same period sales of CDs and vinyl dropped from £1,200m to £880m per year. The music industry trade body, the BPI, believes that in the first quarter of 2012 digital music accounted for 55.5% of total music sales in the UK.

The biggest players in the music market are Amazon and iTunes and we would argue that it is no co-incidence that these two companies are aggressive tax avoiders. In July 2013, Music Week reported that iTunes and Amazon claimed nearly 60% of all recorded music sales by revenue in the UK in the second quarter of 2013 with each controlling around 30% of the market.[1]

The streaming market, dominated by Spotify, is also growing rapidly. According to the BPI, a medium that just 5 years ago didn’t exist is now worth more than £49m annually to British record labels. Globally, Spotify has 20 million users including 5 million paying subscribers.

Supermarkets and chain stores (such as the struggling HMV), now dominate the sale of physical CDs, owning almost 7,000 of the 7,500 UK music retailers.

Sadly these changes, along with the rise of the internet marketplace have had a dire impact on independent record shops. There are now just 278 – a fraction of the 2,200 that existed in 1985 and even the 1,000 shops that were up and running in 2007. As with bookshops, many independent sellers now rely on Amazon marketplace, further entrenching Amazon’s dominance in this market.



The other options


Where to find your local independent record shop:

There are two great sites where you can find your local independent record shop, which sell, vinyl and CDs.

They are:


Where else can you get music from?

Use the band website: Many artists now offer listeners the chance  to buy music direct from their website. This is often better for the artists as it cuts out the middle man and may prove cheaper.

Buy direct from the label: It is sometimes possible to buy direct from record labels, especially small ones. Again this may prove cheaper. One interesting example is Magnatune, a small Independent US label. They allow you to sign up to their site from $15 a month for which you can stream music from their site and download individual tracks.

Charity shops: On our forums LolaSun says: “I like to buy old disco vinyl and have found that charity shops are the best place for finding records cheap. Often you don’t know what you will find and most of the time I end up with something new which I had never heard before.”

Free band websites: For unsigned bands check out Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Myspace. All three sites allow users to upload their own music for you to listen to online. You won’t find lots of tracks by big name artists but you might find some really good music from unsigned acts.

Possibly not from eBay: Bridget on our forums told us: “I have also bought CDs and books from eBay but one word of warning. I found an item I wanted, looked at the reviews on Amazon, but I then ordered from eBay instead even though it was a bit more expensive. When it came it was packaged from Amazon saying it was a gift. The seller on eBay had obviously just bought it off Amazon and put my address on it for a gift delivery!”



Company Profile


HMV opened its first shop on Oxford Street in 1921. It entered administration in January 2013 but was bought out of administration in April by the US private company Hilco, a refinancing and restructuring specialist.

HMV’s sales had declined almost 50% from about $3.7 billion in 2008 to about $1.9 billion in 2011. It was hit hard by tough competition from online rivals, supermarkets and digital downloads. It had also diversified into music venues, Waterstones and selling gadgets. It has sold all these interests now to concentrate on CDs, games and DVDs in the 141 shops it now has left. (See a list of the saved shops on the BBC website.)

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