The Music Disk Isn't Going Away Soon

Downloads, now at 10 percent of sales, will reach only 40 percent by 2012.

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A prediction: By 2012, we'll be downloading 40 percent of our music, say market researchers at In-Stat. That would be up from 10 percent last year worldwide and 6 percent in 2006, the firm says.

Those numbers seem low, given the advantages of digital downloads. They're fast and convenient, and consumers can buy a favorite track instead of albums. But many people won't make the switch yet, saying digital still carries too much riskā€”that songs won't play on whatever device they want to use for listening. That's because the music studios demanded copy protections before they would begin selling digital downloads.

Now those copy protection schemes, and how they make it hard to move music around, remain a major hurdle to digital music's growth, says In-Stat analyst Stephanie Ethier.

The studios are starting to drop the protection rackets. But it's confusing as to where, and when. So decades-old disks are still more portable than modern, digital files. What a mess.