Archive and Search
« Need for Speed | Main | Mark It... »

Digital or Physical?

recordplayer.jpgI don't know what to call an artist release these days.

Is it album, record, CD? All three words point to audio formats that are nearly obsolete. 

It's hard to write a review of a new work when you don't even know what word to use. For example "The band's debut ALBUM is strong, but not inventive." This sentence is fine, but I still don't think "album" is the correct word. Still, it sounds a lot better than MP3.

Music labels are another thing: RoadRunner Records. Retrospect Records. Universal Records. Metal Blade Records.

Are artists releasing records - which are simply a vinyl product of a pressed recording - or are they releasing albums?

Am I just splitting hairs?

I don't think so. The whole joy of buying new music is all but gone these days. An artist - and label - theoretically doesn't even need to spend money on cover art anymore. Just put up a picture of the band and load the songs on iTunes. If it is uploaded, they will come.

I am torn.

There is nothing better than going through bins at a thrift shop and looking for rare vinyl. I equally enjoy cruising the cutout bins of big box music shops, trying to score a great deal. Still, I sometimes get impatient and iTunes can usually fulfill my music fix within seconds.

Don't get me wrong. I love my iPod. The digital music players are completely genius. I can't imagine going to work or the gym without my iPod. Still, there is nothing quite as satisfying as tracking down some rare release (is that the correct word?) and playing it for the first time.

 Maybe it's just me. What do you prefer: physical or digital media? Also, do you say "release," "album," or "record?"





Reader Comments (29)

I think 'album' refers to a collection of songs, not a format.

I hate mp3s, I prefer to own something physical. mp3 is great to get rare stuff, but I would never pay for them. How do you resell mp3s ? You don't. Not that I sell any music, but the point is, you're getting nothing of value beyond hearing the music.

March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Graus
I still say album..but again..I'm old school haha!!!.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
i say album - i may love my ipod also but i feel the need to have the actual record - vinyl for me - i have over 2000 records in my collection - i will never part from them - i just need to find away to upload them to my ipod.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred6ixx
I don't have much in the way of vinyl, but I do prefer buying CDs to just downloading albums. I far prefer having something physical, and since I've had a computer die on me with the loss of a lot of digital material (photos and music - my fault for not backing up, I know) at least I know if it happens again that I just have to rip my CDs to the new machine.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCinnamon
I say album, but get the point of it not sounding quite right. I think saying "Motley Crue's new material is..." could become more appropriate rather that CD / Album / etc.

I still buy CDs, but I also have a vast amount of MP3s and would hate to be without my Media Server serving music throughout the house or my iPod.

Oh and for the record (no pun), I collect vinyl in abundance. Usually frame it or simply store it, but also have a turntable connected to iTunes so I can put it on my iPod.

Vinyl won't die, at least not here in Europe where it's sales are making a resurgence, as for CDs well Radiohead, The Charlatans (UK) and NIN all released free MP3s and the demand was so high for a CD that their physical formats all sold phenomenally well.....
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGareth
I try to use "CD" when I write reviews because I think most people use that term, but I oftentimes slip and say "album" because that's what I have always called them. It's also because I am old as dirt. I prefer to own something physical because it's what I am used to and it works just fine for me. I don't own an Ipod. I do have an MP3 player that I got for free from my work, but I rarely use it.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMetal Mark
gareth - hope you come back to read the comments - what have you used to attach the record deck to itunes - email me please
sorry for the hijack allyson but i really need the answer to this.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred6ixx
As the first person said, an album is a collection of works, be it songs, photographs, etc. So, "album" is correct and still used by most artists in interviews.

"Record" is also good because the songs are still recorded.

I hate downloading. I want the artwork and the whole package. MP3s are meaningless. There is nothing to get excited about with an MP3. I discovered a lot of bands that I love by thinking the album cover looked cool, so I bought it.
When I have had to download an album due to it not being released either in any other format than digital, or because it is an import and too expensive to order (this has only happened 3 times), I find the artwork online and print my own cover for them. I put them on CD and play the CD. I never go back to my computer to listen to them.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRandy
I tend to use CD and album all of the time. I can't break myself of the habit.
Like Christian mentioned, it's a collection of songs, so "album" fits well.

I buy CDs, DVDs, and vinyl.....maybe even a cassette if that's the only way the music was released. I am a collector and I prefer to own the physical product. I enjoy the artwork, the liner notes, pictures, etc. Nothing beats heading out to the record store on a Tuesday to pick up a new album and find a used treasure in the bargain bin. It's the thrill of the hunt!

I have no desire to download MP3s of albums I can actually buy. I have a Dell DJ 30 and it's full of CDs from my collection, of the 7000 songs on there none are MP3s. I don't use iTunes, Limewire, etc because it's a waste of time. I can't get jacked up over owning something I can't physically touch. Sure, it's nice to have the music but I would rather own the actual product.

I have a friend who came by the house and we took a look at my music room full of CDs, etc.....the guy was floored at the amount and size. Just to compare, he pulled out his iPod and showed me his collection (he downloads only and owns no CDs). My response: "Wow." (sarcasm on)

Heavy Metal Addiction
when i can afford it, i am gonna live by a record store. there just arn't that many anymore and thats why people resort to internet. most of the songs that i have came from the internet but i would love to be able to go and buy good music in a record store
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChey
I miss albums because I miss the cool photos and art work on them..How many people out there bought albums years ago because the band looked cool???...I KNOW I DID!!!!! =)
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Another phrase I hate, which is kind of related, is when someone says, "The new album drops on Tuesday." Albums are released, not dropped. That thug-a-rific term just pisses the fuck outta me.
Just wanted to share.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRandy
I vote for album. It is like a collection of songs, but I wonder how many people will buy an entire album when they just want one song?

The best thing about an album was the unreleased gems that only fans really knew about. However, I know there are plenty of one-hit wonders with an album full of pure crap save for the one song that got released. Of course, that one song really sucks, but since your friends all liked it and made you listen to it, you got used to hearing it and now have fond memories associated with it so now you think it's not so bad.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternon-thug-a-rific Tom
Good write-up Allyson...
I prefer going out and getting an actual doubt about it. I just love going to a used CD store and finding them...Much better than just getting an Mp3 of it...
And I usually use both, album and release.

March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenteraXe mAn
The older I get, the more I love vinyl. The tangible aspect of it, of course, is obvious. Real artwork, a nice sized object to hold and look at while listening.

Vinyl is also a wonderful cure for the short atention span of modern life. It's a pain to skip ahead and you can't program tracks, so you just gotta sit and listen through the whole thing. Imagine that! Plus the 45 minute or so time limit of a 12" means that artists are forced to put forth their best tracks, not just dump 22 tracks on a cd and hope for the best. Quality beats quantity, I say.

Finally, there's the sound. Modern CDs are just too compressed. Digital sound is often grating, and lacks the great "air" that classic albums had. Listen to a vinyl copy of "Beggar's Banquet" and you'll know just what I mean.

And, oh yeah, I'm now old enough to need reading glasses, which makes CD liner notes that much less appealing. ;)
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBroJB
I love CD's and vinyl. MP3 is okay if you don't have a record store around you to buy music from. I still call them albums. Most artists don't even release albums anymore just two singles and some filler crap.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlex
i bought a lot of albums, cassettes, etc because of the cover and regretted most of them. i disagree about not getting excited over an mp3. i have and do get excited when i hear a new mp3 that i've been dying to hear. for me the thing is if i have no picture, etc initially, i can judge the music on just the music and have nothing else to color my judgement. you can either live with the future or fight against it (like the record companies) and see where it gets you. i still love my lps, cassettes and i even have an 8 track but i embrace mp3s as well.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdon
by the way, saying an album will drop on tuesday is not thug-a-rific. it's a term used in the music business and does not denote a thug or rap influence. it's been around for a long time.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdon
Actually, Don, I really don't think the standalone downloadable MP3 is the future of the industry. It just can't be, as it's too easily downloaded for free.

If the the record industry wants to survive, they'll have to go back to the future, providing packaging that adds some value to the music. If it's digital, fine. But package the digital download card inside a cool looking fold-out sleeve with lyrics, pictures and such. Give people some value for their money (the way movie companies do, when they sell DVDs with hours of video for under $10) and they'll pay for it.

I just mail ordered a record from a new band I heard on myspace and really liked. For $11, including postage, I'm getting a vinyl LP AND the music on a CD. That's value. In this case, if I was to just buy the music digitally, I'd feel like I was missing out on something cool. And if someone was inclined to download it from a torrent or whatever, the deal might just be enough for them to say "I'll do the right thing and shell out the 11 bucks".

If record companies really believe that the future is asking us to pay 13 bucks to download an album with subpar, overly compressed audio, and get no artwork, liner notes or disk, they're heading down a dangerous road.
March 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBroJB

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.