In the age of instant digital downloads and web streaming, CDs seem to have been banished to the same realm as other musical relics such as MP3 players and Walkmans. Although other long lost formats such as micro-cassettes have recently made a comeback, it’s not often you hear someone say “I’m just popping to HMV to pick up a CD.” So, is it time we hit eject on CDs for good?
In recent years some artists have opted to not produce physical copies of their albums, instead favouring a stream-only option. For instance, Kanye West’s 2016 album The Life Of Pablo was an exclusive release on streaming service Tidal. Despite this it quickly became the first stream-only album to go platinum, hinting at the way that the music industry was headed.
Streaming services such as Apple Play and Spotify give users instant access to an almost unlimited library of songs by simply searching and clicking on their desired track. The ability to create personalised playlists, to find new music through genre-based radios and discover the newest releases all on one app is something that the humble compact disc will unfortunately never be able to replicate. Despite CDs becoming cheaper, you can’t really compare that to £9.99 a month for a library of millions of songs.
Some new cars don’t even come with a CD player, instead, they’re fitted with an AUX or USB port for you to connect your smartphone to. This is also the case with many new laptops which don’t come with a CD drive anymore.
Discussions about the death of CDs have been fairly common over recent years, with many people already acting like they’ve been extinct for years. If you compare the beginning of the noughties (when they were at their peak) to 2018, the sales figures have dropped significantly. However, this is mainly because people don’t tend to buy albums anymore, regardless of whether it’s a digital download or vinyl. It turns out that CDs are still the most popular album format for consumers. There are a few reasons why this might still be the case.
The process of playing a vinyl on a turntable is really satisfying, but let’s face it, they’re not exactly portable. And unless you’ve already pre-downloaded music from a streaming service, you’re at the mercy of a strong internet connection to enable you to listen to your favourite tunes. There’s also the issue that some artists or albums aren’t actually available to listen to on streaming services and other artist catalogues appear and disappear all the time. CDs, on the other hand, are a lot more portable, reliable and convenient.
Even though I rarely ever play my CDs, I can’t bear to part with them because of the nostalgia and memories attached to them. I have a huge stack of them at home which includes some of my all-time favourite albums which were handed down to me from my sister and parents.
The CD definitely still has its place in many people’s music collections for the moment. Retro nostalgia and what it represents will always be fashionable. People love to bring things back that were thought to be long in the past, be it flared trousers or retro games consoles. The resurgence of vinyl, which was once thought dead, shows that these once much-loved formats which were banished to a dusty box in your loft can always bounce back. Maybe this will be the case for CDs in 20 years time.
Image: Mlange_b Flickr