People are funny – they tend to stick to old habits even as new realities overtake them. The CD industry may be collapsing (apparently, young folks don’t even want free CDs!) but I keep buying them.
But I realized the other day that I don’t actually listen to CDs anymore! We’ve now digitized our entire 11,000-song CD collection and I’ve unplugged our home CD player. Even in the car, where the convenience and durability of CDs was a serious benefit, we’re listening to more and more iPod music these days. As for me, I’m not even sure if my car CD player even works anymore… What a strange new world music has become…
Over the last year, I’ve bought about two dozen CDs and downloaded just four albums and a half dozen single songs. I’m of the generation (X, that is) that still remembers how beautiful and artistic album art can be, and longs for a tangible copy of my music. While ripping our last CDs last month, I was struck by the packaging of CDs like the Beastie Boys’ To the 5 Boroughs, Pet Shop Boys’ Alternative, and my heavy vinyl copy of Shellac’s The Rude Gesture: A Pictorial History.
Most younger people will never reminisce about album covers, though. Although iTunes albums include “digital booklets”, lots of music is just downloaded on a song-by-song basis. The only artwork they get is a single little square picture for use in iTunes’ Cover Flow.
But I’m not going to lament “these kids these days.” Instead, I’m wondering why I still buy CDs when I can get them from Apple with one touch on the iPhone, or in glorious non-DRM mp3 form from Amazon if I want to sit at the PC. The first thing I do when I buy a CD these days is rip a copy of it for use on the iPod anyway! I’ve got a stack of brand new unplayed CDs on my desk – I’ve listened to my mp3 copy but never the disc itself!
But I keep buying CDs, and bands keep releasing them. Even Radiohead now sells In Rainbows in Wal-Mart, on Amazon, and even on iTunes, but they’ve closed down their pay-what-you-want download site. And I can’t quite see myself switching full-time to downloaded music and missing all that artwork!
Give me another few years, though, and I bet I’ll be like most of those kids – exclusively downloading music, even as Newbury Comics joins the big four in bankruptcy court…