The death of the CD

June 20, 2008
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Reports of the death of the CD aren't exagerated.

Wired magazine reports that Apple's ITunes store has sold over five billion songs.

Meanwhile, Price WaterhouseCoopers LLC released a report that sales downloaded songs will surpass that of CDs by 2010.

In other words, your jewel-cased discs will soon be going the way of the 8-track tape and the reel-to-reel.

What's different about this change, though, is that music downloads aren't just albums in different formats. They are a fundamentally different forms, obviously pushing the single instead of the album.

So is the long-form song set, with a specific order, dead? Will such works as The Beach Boy's "Pet Sounds" and The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" ever happen again?

Does the loss of this form make it more difficult for us to discover songs? Or are there plenty of other new ways now, such as Pandora, to discover unfamliar music?

And what will up-and-coming bands sell at the back of the club after a show?

Your thoughts?
  • A lot of this stuff goes in cycles. My dad was telling me that when record singles came out people thought the death of the album was near. CD's were a huge boost to the album format again and now it is going in another cycle.

    The idea of a single is, obviously, you can buy only the song you know you like without getting a bunch of other junk. Also the idea of having thousands of songs all in one place (via your computer or MP3 player) that you can listen to with the click of a button is amazingly convenient.

    But at the same time I really enjoy buying things in an album format. It helps you to discover how much you really like a group. If all you do is download the 4 biggest singles of a particular group can you really say you are a fan? Also I will often buy an album based on one or two songs (if it's a band I don't know that well). If I hate the album I will probably never buy another CD again from that group. So yeah, I wasted 13 bucks, but at least I'm sure I gave them a chance.

    Anyway, I really doubt CD's (or some other form of music hardware) will die anytime soon. The quality a CD provides is far superior to an MP3 and it's really kind of a shame that so many people listen to music primarily in that compressed format. Each format has its advantages and IMO you are better off having a healthy mix of MP3 singles and CD albums in your collection.
  • I really hope that (if the CD format ends), the next Gen format will allow whole albums to be purchased. When I have enjoyed a song or two on a CD (from artists like Disturbed, Waking Ashland, Beck, etc..), I purchase the album and fall in love with the rest of the songs. In the rare chance that part or all of the rest of the album stunk, I would pull back and either not buy any more albums, or wait for someone else to purchase the album and listen to it with them.
  • I'm inclined to agree with Cycle, that the CD will NOT die soon, and for me I think the biggest reason is because of his last point: the sound quality. I don't mind a lower sound quality for some kinds of music, but when I'm listening to Mahler or any other my other favorite classical composers, I want the best quality possible.

    And on a much more shallow note, I get a great deal of satisfaction when I buy a CD, and tear the plastic wrapping off of it, and eagerly pull the booklet out to read it. And then I place it in its appropriate place among many other CDs on the CD rack, and the site of all my CDs is rather gratifying. (slightly pathetic, I know.)
  • The thing I like most about cd's is the ability to find obscure music from an artist. As great as Pandora and some of the other streaming radio/download formats are, the fact is, they often only carry 1-2 'hits' from lesser known but fantastic artists...

    As a side note--more often than not I wind up preferring songs from an artist that no one knows about--versus the 'hit' that the label and the radio stations *want* me to like--and I think many artists feel the same way.

    so i'm in the CD column...
  • Oh no. I'm still playing my Phil Harris on 78's. I have progressed to an electric turntable so I don't have to crank the machine.
  • The album will never be obsolete. People's love for music makes them desire more music from their favorite artists; beyond just the singles. The format may change, but the concept will stay the same. People love music and therefore artists will still have to record a whole albums' worth of songs, which will not all be hits.
  • Oh poop! I guess I'll put those CD's next to my Meatloaf Bat Out Hell and AC/DC Back in Black 8-Tracks.

    What happened to Stars on 45?
  • For those who are of a certain age, this is a bit like coming full circle only better. 78's and 45's were singles with flip sides that occasionally made the big time (think Rudolph of the Red Nosed Reindeer). Then 33 1/3 albums came along. Who doesn't remember being able to see the wear marks in the track or two that you actually bought the album to hear. Cassettes were great but hard to find your track and eight tracks were a fluke in time, so we welcomed the CD with outstretched arms, even though you could no longer see the wear marks :-) I-Tunes is everything great about digital AND those old 45's with the single you actually wanted to buy. I say hurray and why didn't the recording industry figure it out sooner - it wasn't like we hadn't been sending them a message since the 50's.

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