I have been a music fan since I was a kid in the 70’s. Having taken great joy in amassing a collection of CDs, vinyl, cassettes, and even a few digital tracks, I have to say that I’m less than thrilled about digital downloads. Here’s why.
They’ve sapped the joy out of buying a product
I’ve opened thousands of CDs in my life and looked at hundreds of albums and cassettes. There was always something magical about opening each one. Cracking the shrink wrap. Opening the case. Smelling the new plastic and the printing on the booklet or sleeve. When I was buying a CD a week, I used to love looking to see how the disc was screened on the label side. I enjoyed sliding the booklet out and looking at the artwork, liner notes and lyrics.
Digital downloads eliminate all of that. You own nothing but a piece of software. You may get a little display picture to go along with the song, but nothing to hold. Nothing to open, and nothing to collect.
They’ve helped eliminate the concept of the album
It used to be that a great album was a united whole. You’d listen to it and your sense memory would key you to the next song. The sequencing often meant that songs built on each other and set a thematic mood sustained through the whole album. Now, you have a bunch of singles that you’re more than likely never going to listen to in order. This seem like a minor point to anyone under the age of 30, but I shudder to think how many classic tracks would have been ignored out of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s if people were buying songs a $1 at a time.
They’ve killed the record store
Four years of my life were spent at Tower Records almost twice a week. I spent hours browsing the racks, looking for albums I’d heard about, discovering others I’d never seen before, and scanning the big board to see what was coming soon. Record stores are dying slowly, and the big boxes aren’t carrying half the selection that the good record stores always did. You miss the entire visual experience, the end caps with the interesting CD, the posters, and the ability to fip through dozens of artists to find something you forgot you wanted. Forgive me, but clicking the hyperlink doesn’t do it for me.
They’re not permanent
With care, albums and CDs would last a lifetime. Your collection would be a source of pride for decades. Today, you have a bunch of files on a fragile hard drive. Yes, you can back them up, but there is something less than life affirming about a 6 square inch piece of plastic beign the only true representation of your music collection.
Come back, CDs. We hardly knew ye.