The CD is celebrating a big anniversary: In August 1982, exactly 40 years ago, the production of the first “compact disc” (CD) ushered in the digitization of the music world. At the Bertelsmann subsidiary Sonopress in Gütersloh, one of Europe’s largest CD producers, the CD’s triumphant advance began a couple of years later, in 1984. The first CD albums Sonopress produced at that time included “Fantastic Boney M.” by Boney M., “The First Album” by Modern Talking, “Stereotomy” by Alan Parsons, and U2’s “War.” CD production in Gütersloh peaked between 2005 and 2008, when as many as 1.5 million CDs were produced daily. At that time, this involved a workforce of 800 employees. In the current fiscal year 2022, Sonopress will reach the gigantic mark of eight billion CDs produced in total; in purely mathematical terms, that is one CD for every person in the world. Since a CD is about 1.2 millimeters thick, this quantity stacked one on top of the other would make a tower 9,600 kilometers (5,965 miles) high.
The start of CD production in 1984 marked the beginning of optical data media at Sonopress. In the years that followed, other formats including CD-ROM, DVD, Blu Ray Disc and Ultra HD BD evolved from the CD – all of them identical in size and based on a digital storage format. Today, the round discs still keep 500 colleagues busy at the Gütersloh site. They produce optical discs and look after Sonopress’ service and product range, which has since expanded further. It now includes packaging capabilities for Games customers such as Nintendo and Microsoft with the Xbox, as well as a wide variety of print products such as LP sleeves for entertainment media. “At Sonopress, we’re seeing decent year-on-year growth again this year,” says Sonopress Managing Director Sven Deutschmann. “New customers are on board, the LP market is growing steadily, and the declines in the CD sector are moderate, so we are recruiting and hiring new employees in many areas, both in production and on the administrative side.”
Overall, the number of CDs, DVDs and Blu Rays sold has been declining for years, but Sonopress has managed to keep its production constant, primarily by expanding its international market share. This has been achieved by winning new customers such as global record labels and major Hollywood studios, whose discs are now produced in Gütersloh. Sonopress has also been involved in innovative new formats, including production of the high-resolution “4K Ultra HD Disc.” The company reckons that this opened the door to the U.S. market and Hollywood customers whose goods are now produced in Gütersloh. In all, Sonopress delivered more than 180 million optical discs from Gütersloh to all over the world – and more than 100 million of them were in the CD format, a format long declared dead by many.