Mourning the Loss of the CD
Jerry Lucky Commentary September 2009
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2009 All Rights Reserved
Well here it is, September, Fall in some parts of the world and for me a time of reflection. My daughter is leaving home and going
to art school and Iím reading that Radiohead are no longer releasing albums. For quite some time weíve been hearing of the death
of the CD and it would appear that we are getting closer to that eventuality. It seemed like a good time to mourn the loss of the CD.
There was always something quite exciting about picking up the latest album from my favourite bands, rushing home, putting it on the phonograph and then sitting on the couch to read the lyrics while listening to the whole disc all the way through. It was one of those most pleasurable moments for me. Enjoyable from the aspect of hearing some new music but also by the experience of in some small way actually participating with the artists as I listened and read my way through their creative efforts. Theyíd obviously spent considerable time putting the whole package together, it was the least I could do.
As the technology changed and we moved into the digital world of compact disc, my time became more taken with raising my daughter and there seemed to be less time to listen to music the way I used to; now the listening occurred in the car or while working at the computer. Still there were times where I would relish the time I had by sitting on the couch and putting that CD on while reading the tiny lyrics. The packaging was never really the same was it?
For some time weíve been hearing about the troubles experienced by the record companies and how the loss of record sales was going to lead to the end of the physical disc. And while we could all propose arguments as to why that wasnít the solution, the finances were leading the industry. The bean-counters were having their way. The technology was forging ahead with no thought to its impact and the law of unintended consequences was surely knocking at the door.
My own view is that the record companies have done it to themselves. For one thing they failed to see the impact that the new technology, specifically the internet was going to have on the delivery of music. For another thing why would people choose to buy an album when all they ever heard were singles? Raising the price of an album simply raised the risk of dissatisfaction. All of these issues could have been easily remedied had the record companies charted a longer term strategy to deal with not only changing technology but changing demographics. Thatís the other element in play here. Its one thing to attempt to get older people to change their behaviour, but itís a completely different game when the people who are doing the changing are less set in their ways. They have much less to lose. They are whatís called in the business, the early adopters.
So Radiohead say they are no longer going to release albums. Are they the first? Will there be a tidal wave of copycats or will it be more of a slow and steady stream of converts? Hard to say. There have been rumblings for some time that new technology would replace the CD or that the download world would soon supplant any and all physical distribution methods. Iím sure the bean-counters are very happy about that last prospect. After all it gets rid of a lot of those pesky details like having to not only make CDs but also gets rid of the cases, the paper and the distribution networks. All that costs money you know.
There were some, I was one, who suggested progressive rock was different. It wasnít about singles, it was about musical ideas that were grander in scope than the latest pop melodies. I want to believe thatís still the case. But then who am I?
Are we on the threshold of dramatic change? Probably. Change is inevitable. I sincerely hope Iím wrong and that if I may paraphrase Mark Twain, ďthe rumours of the CDís death are greatly exaggeratedĒ but that remains to be seen. Truth is, itís not that we mind changeÖwhat we mind is BEING changed. In some ways, the CDís future is in our hands. For me there is something comforting about purchasing the physical disc, holding it in my hands and appreciating its contents. So, I know what Iím going to do about it; I bought 3 CDís today. What are YOU going to do?
At least thatís what I think.