New research shows that students, the vast majority of whom own PCs and MP3 players, are staying loyal to the CD format despite the convenience of itunes.

The CD player however is becoming obsolete with most young people listening to music on computers and MP3 players.

Research shows the CD player is going the way of the video recorder with just 55 per cent saying they now use one to listen to music.

Eighty seven per cent of those questioned said they used a computer and 79 per cent said they used an MP3 player like an iPod.

The survey, of more than 1,000 UK students by Opinionpanel, reveals that despite the demise of the CD player, the compact disc is still popular.

The results showed that 52% of those surveyed were more likely to spend money on CDs in a typical fortnight, compared with 36% on downloads; 8% on vinyl; and 9% on other formats.

Experts say the apparent inconsistency is explained by the fact that CDs can still be played on computers and converted to smaller files and played on MP3 players.

Alarmingly the survey reveals students feel big record labels must adapt to the new way of obtaining music via the Internet, or die.

Paul Rees, editor of Q Magazine, was not shocked by the survey’s findings.

He said: “It’s true that CD players are dying out and it’s not remotely surprising that people aren’t using them to play their music - it’s exactly the same as when cassettes were killed off by CDs.

“People are still buying CDs for the simple fact that they want a tangible object to hold onto and look at, and also so they can build a physical collection of their music.”

This was backed up by students in the survey.

One student, a male 20-year-old studying psychology, said: “With a CD you have something which is physical, rather than just a file stored on a computer. I particularly like it when you have a well-made booklet in the CD case, with artwork."

Another (a female 19-year-old studying design at Loughborough) said: “You can keep CDs when your hard drive gets erased accidentally.”

Mr Rees said record companies were responding poorly to shifts in listening patterns.

He said: “Record companies have been very slow to adapt to the changing nature of the way music is listened to and they must catch up with the times if they are to survive.

“I cannot believe that the big record companies haven’t grouped together as a collective to build one website where people can get all their music.

People don’t want to go somewhere for 25% of their music, they want one place to provide everything they need.

“For record labels to survive they have to deliver music to people in the way they want to receive it. People have become used to downloading music for free, so now record labels need to set up something that provides free

music for their customers at the same time as generating revenue for themselves."

Students were scathing about the future for big record companies.

One in the survey said (a 20-year-old studying French at the University of Edinburgh): “They will have to innovate and start looking for new avenues of income if they are to survive. Half won’t be around, as they exist today, in ten years.”

Another student (a 22-year-old studying physics at Bristol) added: “Their days are numbered. People no longer want physical media, they want their music quickly and cheaply.”

The Opinionpanel survey ran from 16th to 20th January 2008 and questioned a representative sample of 1002 full time undergraduate students at UK universities, largely aged 18 to 26.

The survey follows a shake-up at EMI earlier this month when it was announced 2,000 jobs are to be shed.

Paul McCartney and Radiohead have quit the troubled label and Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Kylie and Snow Patrol are all threatening to follow suit.

Radiohead also broke new ground, bypassing record companies altogether and releasing their album on the Internet, with buyers invited to pay whatever they liked.

The survey also revealed that iTunes is by far the most popular source of downloads, with 68 per cent using it, followed by HMV with nine per cent and Limewire with six per cent.