Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Will digital downloads kill the CD?

Your opinions on this matter will most likely largely depend on how old you are, but this is something I feel worth talking about. This digital revolution - or whatever you want to call it - that's been happening over recent years. I'm not going to go much into music piracy, although yes, that is an issue, it's not my point.

Digitally downloading music, legally or illegally has now become the norm, I think I would be right in saying.
I myself, am a fan of the physical copy. I love the experience of walking into a record store, picking up an album, and I love being able to go home, put it on and listen to it from start to finish, while looking at the cover, admiring the artwork, reading the leaflet and reading the lyrics inside. I love putting it in my case along with the rest of my collection. I don't have a very large collection, but here it is anyway.

My fear is, with my growing collection (and I do plan on it getting much, much bigger in years to come) that I won't be able to buy cds in 20, 30, 40 years time, that record companies will be making too much money strictly on downloads through the likes of Amazon and iTunes.

We also have to consider that these days, buying music on vinyl is coming back into popularity, mainly with very big music fans who are willing to shell out a lot of cash for the record players, and vinyls themselves, where available. Here in the UK, the average price of a cd is about £10 or £11, whereas the same album on vinyl would be twice that. I have even seen albums that are £50 to £100, or even more on vinyl, as they are a special release, or a limited number of copies have been made, say.
Although, nowadays, with music in the first place being recorded digitally, it will usually sound better on cd, or even slightly better in some digital formats. All this obviously depends on what sort of hardware you have. Likely whatever the format, you won't be able to notice much difference in sound quality if you haven't put a lot of cash in buying a decent amp and speakers for example.

Maybe, in the future, (as it was suggested to me by @theronster on twitter) actual lossless quality audio will become readily available and everybody will be buying into that.
But, setting aside the whole issue of 'what is the best possible quality of sound?' I for one, hope that record companies will keep releasing their music on CDs for many years to come. I wish I had a collection like Rob Gordon, in one of my favourite films High Fidelity.


  1. Completely agree with you about physical copies. There's nothing quite like waiting to buy a CD, putting it in the player for the first time and just taking time out to listen and look at the booklets.

    I do a lot of my listening on Spotify now, but if I'm going to buy a CD it will nearly always be physical (unless I have an Itunes voucher!).

    Long live the CD.

    1. Yeah, I know a lot of people feel the same way, but I do get some weird looks from some people for saying I still even pay for music! Spotify is great, but I would never pay for it, and I only really use it to check stuff out. If I really like something I hear there, then I'll usually try and find the CD. It's getting far more frequent though that I can't find the albums I want in HMV for example, and I'll have to either go to Amazon or Play and wait for the post!

  2. I usually use Spotify as a tool for finding new stuff, and it is my savior for the hours spent at work. I've discovered so much through it.

    I never buy CD's from instore at HMV now - they're so much cheaper on their website!! I got a free CD with their Pure points system the other day though :D, which is my first physical purchase of the year! I wonder how many others there will be..

  3. (4th attempt and typed in a rush with a hell of a lot less care and effort than the original, which, while totally awesome, shall never be read).

    The end of the CD release, the end of the digital release is upon us, for better or for worse. You have to move with the times, but this doesn't mean that you have to give in completely.

    Just because you will no longer be able to buy a physical copy of an album it does not mean you can not have a physical copy, the only difference is you will now have the opportunity to add to it in ways that the bands themselves do not provide.

    Take blank cassettes for example, they are still available to buy today, there is no reason why blank CDs will not be around for a long time yet, so use them.

    As I said above, you can add to your collection in ways that have not been used in common place for a very long time. Albums used to be in blank sleeves, people used to decorate them themselves. Use this opportunity to do the same. Burn the digital version to a blank CD, design the cover based around a track that means a lot to you, hand write selected lyrics in a booklet made by yourself, for yourself. Add to the album, make it special, make it unique, have it represent how it makes you feel when you listen to it.

    Time consuming? Yes, but expressing how "good" someone or something can make you feel is often more worth it than not.

    Physical media, corporately released, will one day die out, this is a fact, but like the humble cassette there will always be a way for people to store their music, however they see fit (even today you can burn/rip to vinyl).

    If you want to continue to support the artists you love you have to continue to move with the times, regardless of personal preference to distribution methods.

    While nothing can beat the feeling one receives when cracking open a new CD and taking in the new smell scent of the sleeve/booklet as you listen to the album for the first time there are solutions.

    Make the album yours, music belongs to each and everyone of us, not just the artists, so add some input of your own.

  4. Yeah man, you make good points there, and you're right. I guess, when it comes to the point where I won't be able to find any albums I want on CD to buy, I can still burn them and add them to my physical collection.
    My sister used to do the same for cassettes, she was always making her own wee covers for them and they looked class. Guess I'll be doing the same for CDs some day :) Huh, something to tell the kids anyway hahaha, "You didn't used to have to buy music online!"