You scream out of excitement and joy as you hear that your favorite artist or band is recording a new album. It’s been a while since they’ve put out new music, and even longer since you’ve seen them in concert. So, with every intention of getting that album in your hands—caressing it as if it were your most prized possession—you wait for its release like the dedicated fan you are.
You wonder if you can somehow, against all odds, get that artist or band to sign their new CD for you at their show, and add it to your CD collection.
But therein lies the problem; because of the rise of digital music downloads and the changed landscape of the music industry, CDs just aren’t popular anymore, and it’s rare to find people who become excited over holding an album in their hands. It’s even hard to find an actual retail music store these days.
Obtaining music digitally has grown exponentially ever since the release of Napster in the late 1990s. Nowadays, music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are making it easier to instantly listen to that new Coldplay or Lady Gaga song with the tap of an app. It’s obvious that buying, downloading, or streaming music online is easier, more convenient and increasingly more cost effective than the alternative; an actual CD.
The error that most people don’t seem to understand that they are doing is that they are choosing convenience over substance. Going to your local record store and picking up the CD of an artist you love is an unparalleled experience of satisfaction and joy. The feeling of ripping open the plastic covering and opening the case to reveal great artwork and liner notes, interestingly designed lyric sheets, artist or band photos, and touching words of gratitude and thankfulness is lost in digital media.
Alyssa Mallen, a Santa Monica College student, still remembers her first CD purchase. It was her seventh birthday, and she had been waiting for the day she could buy the brand new Spice Girls album.
“I was so excited to buy my first CD and was like ‘I’m one of the cool kids now!’”
Another great thing about CDs is that they often are re-released as deluxe editions of a previous release. For example, if an album had 10 songs on it, it could be re-released at a later time with extra songs that were not on the original album. In addition to more songs, there may be a DVD documentary about the artist or band making the album or going on tour. These extras are normally not available in a digital release. Deluxe editions of CDs often come with unique packaging, custom-made with the collector in mind. You won’t get any of that good stuff on iTunes or Pandora, so a physical album is your best choice.
Santa Monica College student Sam Green said he downloads music online “99 percent of the time.” But he understands the value of getting a physical copy of a CD, compared to an online version. “I think CDs absolutely still have a place in the world, if only just for nostalgic value, and to have something physical to hand to an artist and say ‘Will you sign this?’” Green also said that if he really likes a band, he will go out and buy their CD.
Even with digital music on the rise, CDs are still going strong. In the first half of 2012, 61 percent of all albums sold were CDs, according to a report by the Nielsen Company and Billboard. This could potentially mean that people like SMC student Ashley Reese, whose trips to the record store have sentimental value, still have hope.
“I remember going to the record store all the time,” Reese said. “That would be our thing when my parents got divorced. My dad would take us to the record store and the book store. He’d buy us a book and a CD.” Reese often goes to the record store and buys multiple CDs at one time, stating that she buys CDs from artists that she knows will deliver an album worth listening to in its entirety.
CDs are not just something a person buys. They represent memories that we hold in our hearts, and reflect on the time we listened to that album for hours, basking in its glory. They remind us of a simpler time when we sat on our beds and sang at the top of our lungs, along with our favorite bands, while reading the lyric sheets that came in the CD case.
In a digital world of ever increasing vastness, it would be nice to have some things stay within the tangible. Even if CDs were to be replaced one day, let it be for something similar but better, the way Blu-Ray succeeded DVDs. Otherwise, we lose the little things that hold deep value and meaning.