The death of CDs


25 CDs for $25? A post over at IndieHQ mentioned Asian Man‘s seemingly ridiculous sale created in an attempt to clear out overstock before it’s too late. Too late being the end of CDs.

I’m not at all a part of the record industry but my interest in music and media is enough that I like to pay a little attention to what’s going on (which, for my particular interest, IndieHQ is great). Pretty much everyone that consumes music has heard the CD sales are down. Fine. Yet I don’t see how they can be considered down enough to suggest that the end of the format is near. Or maybe I don’t want to admit to it.

The post linked above mentions certain titles from back catalogs selling fewer and fewer copies to the point of them never selling out. Others from more popular bands sound like they are still selling. Nothing is mentioned on the comparative sales of the digital counterparts of these titles. Is it the CD format of them that never leaves the warehouse or is there no demand for the title in general? If a band that was never well known has since called it quits, it’s hard to see how any interest would carry over for their dated material, downloaded or otherwise. There’s a box of probably 300 CDs, two albums deep, sitting in my parents’ basement from my high school band that will probably never move. If we still played it’d be a whole different story.*

I’ve mentioned before that despite my enthusiasm for all things interwebs I’m not a digital music buyer. I’m hardly a music buyer in general anymore but when I do buy music I want the CD and the packaging that comes with them (though not so much the longboxes of yore). Part of that may be the designer in my. Part of that may be that I’ve had too many hard drives crash. Whatever the case, if I want it in 1s and 0s, I’d just assume take the two minutes to do that on my own.

I do like the fact that if CDs were to diminish to noting but collector items like vinyl seems to be today it would allow indie labels and bands to distribute their music on the same level as bigger acts at a friendlier budget. But if no CDs to sell, how are bands supposed to make gas money while on tour or give fans that instant gratification after a show or keep potential fans from forgetting about them by the time they launch iTunes? I’d rather buy music from a band than a t-shirt.

CDs and jewel boxes take up space. So do redundant hard drives.

* Like this song? Want to buy a cd?


  1. cr 20070201

    I found your analysis very insightful. I also am not a digital music buyer for the very reason you mention above: I want to hold a jewel case in my hand, admire the packaging, flip through the linter notes while I listen and make enjoying music an experience instead of disposable digital dribble in the background. If I want digital music, I’ll rip it myself.

  2. matches 20070201

    I guess that leaves me to provide some sort of digital music afficionado counterpoint. But I don’t know if I can. I too know that paranoia that comes with having that much data on your hard drive. It’s part of the reason that having an iPod (or any DMP) capable of holding all of my music is so important to me; it’s a backup in case something goes horribly wrong.

    At the same time, my usage of CDs in the last couple years has pretty much exclusively been when I’m driving, and those are all burnt copies since I don’t want to misplace or destroy my originals. I still respect the format, and I think it’s extremely practical. I like having the option to pick up music in a physical form if I want to, but it’s no longer a necessity for my purposes.

  3. waytoocrowded 20070202

    I should probably mention that despite preferring to buy music on CD or in some other physical form, I nearly exclusively listen to MP3s, either downloaded, ripped or streaming. Most of that is bands I don’t know and may never listen to again. When it’s something I really dig and remember, having the physical archive makes me smile. And the packaging. Perhaps that makes little practical sense.

    For people that really collect music, an 80gb iPod is hardly enough as a backup.

  4. Robert 20070207

    While I abhor the “death” of any musical format, I still can’t find myself putting all my music in “bytes of sound” and 1′s and 0′s. Music just wasn’t meant to be in that medium. And, yes, I am old-fashioned, but we are all music lovers just the same. But I will still have my vinyl records and the well thought out album cover designs that go with them-30 years from now. Can I ask where will your downloaded music be?

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