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Labels Ditch CDs?

Posted on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 12:02AM by Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford | Comments26 Comments

CD collectors, begin your long goodbye. Apparently major labels are banding together to ditch the CD format by the end of 2012.

Yep. It’s the end of an era. Nearly an end to music, too.

I’m one of the few people I know who still prefers a physical CD over an album download. I do buy lots of music on Amazon and iTunes, but I still get the physical CD if at all possible. I feel like having something tangible 1) proves what I spent my money on and 2) that the band is worthy of existence. Any musician can record a song and throw it online these days. It takes just a little bit more effort (but not much) to release a physical CD.

I know people say I’m old fashioned or even antiquated, but I loved going to music stores when I was kid. That was how I found new bands to like! I would wander the Kmart music section constantly, just looking for that next big “thing” in my life. I picked up bands because of cool album covers. I also grabbed CDs because they were playing on the record store’s sound system at the time. And sometimes I watched what other people were buying and then I would copy them (usually these people were wearing band T-shirts, etc.)

Since music stores – and music sections – basically don’t even exist anymore, I guess music is less important to our lives, right? Well, not less important to our lives, but to the general public. Anymore, music is nothing more than a throwaway commodity to be used in car commercials and to usher models down runways. Audiophiles are few and far between because everyone listens to compressed tunes through inner earphones. It’s sort of sad.

Remember back in the 80s when people would walk around with those giant boom boxes, blasting tunes? You heard new music that way too! And hey, I won’t bash all technology. I’m very grateful I can Google the lyrics to literally any song and find out the title/artist/album in about two seconds. But still, I’m sad. I spent all my money on CDs as a teenager and now kids just steal music. It really is true: when you work and spend your hard earned money on something, it’s a little more important to you.

I’m resentful that major labels are forcing this change on all of us – because, hello – not everyone uses an MP3 player (at least, not yet). I’ve got music strewn about everywhere. CDs, records, tapes and tons of MP3s on about 15 different electronic devices. I doubt I am unique in this situation. I suppose the phase-out of CD players will come at us fast. I guess this means I need to move all my CDs to my iTunes library. What a bloody hassle.  

Reader Comments (26)

Hey, I still listen to vinyl! And I'll keep buying CDs 'til there are none left to buy.
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA. Gheeng
Thats SUCKS!
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterreptileblvd
I don't think the major labels are "forcing" this on us. If there was money to be made, you can guarantee they'd be doing it. The reality is that the market is changing and they're reacting.

I also don't think that disappearing music sections in stores is a sign that we value music less. We're just moving to a model where physical stores don't make sense any more. Besides, there are lots of people who still like collecting physical music, so there will always be niche music stores.

But that aside, I think the concept of "ownership" of media is disappearing with streaming services. Just like Netflix etc. is making the concept of 'owning' movies obsolete, companies like Spotify & rdio.com are making the concept of owning music obsolete. What's the point in spending $15 on a CD when you can spend a low, flat-rate and listen to what you want, when you want and how you want? The freedom & choice of this model provides you with is astounding.

As for the CD, I'm definitely not going to when they disappear. Like all physical media, they scratch, they can get misplaced, and they take up a lot of space to store.
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
Thanks for bringing us the next crime of the century, Al.

Bryon, you make some valid points.

Reality is, there is no longer a mass market for CDs, only the niche you describe.

Our niche is GLAM METAL from the 80's to the present and future.

I collected about a thousand Glam Metal CDs from 1988 to 1993. It was only until 2007 I started actively pursuing buying 80's/early 90's Glam Metal CDs almost exclusively, leaving my appreciation of other genres of music pretty much on hold as I chase down every great Glam Metal CD on the planet, particularly "The Holy Grails of Hair Metal"' those elusive, ultra rarities that bands independently pressed to circulate at record companies and shows to assist them in getting a record deal.

This has turned into an obsession as I have discovered many, many bands virtually unheard of, apart from the awareness Al has been bringing to them here and collectors have been in pursuit of for years.

Brass Kitten, anyone?

These Indy bands put out albums on CD that are equal or superior to the major signings we keep dancing up on our proverbial head
of a pin.

Now the race is on even more for not only these Holy Grails, but the CDs of bands who got signed but barely sold.

Cats In Boots or D'Molls, anyone?

Fortunately, I've been at this for awhile so I've got a fair amount of our fave genre in my collection but, believe me, there is so much more to get including the new stuff coming out that will also be rendered obsolete.

One thing that may be the saddest by-product of this systematic abolishment of music in physical form will be the disappearance of printed album cover art. Gone will be an art form that has generated some of the coolest photography, illustration and graphics.

Geez, I thought it was a crime when they shrank it from LP size
to CD size and now it may only exist online the size of a postage
stamp, if at all.
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
You know...this is a sad thing to think about, but I guess it is a product of our times. I totally agree with Metalboy, in that the art covers will probably be gone. I still seek out cool ass LP's that I can frame and hang on my walls. The funny thing is that I even saved some ole cassette tape cover arts. All be it smaller, but still something of a memory. Now, with the CD's going.....wow. I still find myself, out of habit, walking to the music isles and looking for what is new..Very very small selection, anymore. In Best Buy, the new release section is very minimal, and hardly anyone brousing through that music section.
I can still remember the record stores and the excitement of the new albums coming out. My fav. cover art, although inside, was Shout at the Devil.
Even after 30 yrs, I still try to dress like Tommy or Nikki. ie. my Halloween outfit this yr.
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbrian L
Bryon makes a great point about Netflix. I very rarely buy DVDs anymore because there is so much available on Netflix (and I watch it constantly). On the music side there are the subsciption services, and there are the free sites like last.fm, Pandora, and even Youtube.

I like CDs. To me, digital files are too easy to lose...I've had my share of hard drive crashes. Plus, how can you get an MP3 autographed? :)
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJT
I've seen this same article circulating but it's the ONLY article that I've found. Seems to me that if labels truly are considering stopping production of CDs, you'd see many different stories popping up on websites and in magazines that you've heard of before.

While labels ARE losing money on CD sales are on the decline, hundreds of millions CDs are still being purchased by consumers every year.

Maybe I'm wrong and maybe by the end of 2012 I WON'T be able to buy a new CD, but I'm not buying into this story until I see a more legitimate source report it and see quotes from the record labels.
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchip
However small, the possibility exists that consumer backlash could prevent this from happening for a while at least. Bank Of America abandoned their $5.00 debit card fee and Netflix has dropped the Quickster sham. There is hope just very little.
November 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSean
Let's not forget that we inhabit a niche, of people who care more about music than the average Joe. I'm not sure how much major label music I buy. Labels like Roadrunner will not necessarily follow suit, and in some ways, this could open the door to bands self publishing CDs more. I think I'll be buying CDs for a while. I sure have no intention of either stealing music, or paying for a stream of bytes that's a hard drive crash away from disappearing.
November 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
i felt that way when cd's came out and were replacing vinyl. this is the progression of technology and unfortunately things that we love are sometimes lost!!
November 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlou
This is STUPID. I grew up buying vinyl, & spent many hours staring at the artwork, liner notes, & inner sleeves. The labels forced us onto cassettes, which sucked, & later on to CD's, which had superior sound, but lacked the LP's artwork. I bought 'em all. Have 1000's of vinyl LPs, hundreds of cassettes, & about a 1000 CDs. But I absolutely will NOT spend my money for digital electrons of the music I love. Screw that.
November 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAce Steele
I've never quite understood the fact that people don't like or trust the "digital electrons", as Ace mentioned above.

A CD is just cheap piece of plastic with digital bits on it. Those digital bits sound exactly the same regardless of where they are stored - a burned CD, local harddrive, iPod, a thumbdrive, or some cloud-based storage (i.e., what Spotify.com uses) over the Internet. In all cases, the song is exactly the same if stored at the same quality level.

Yes, there are differences in quality based on compression, etc., and I too have heard some extremely crappy, low quality MP3's. But unless you're listening to music using very high quality equipment, the differences are virtually imperceptible at 128kpbs, which is a fairly standard bitrate. And as bandwidth & storage continue to increase, compression becomes less of an issue, which is why you now see a lot more of 256k or even full, uncompressed FLAC around.

That said, I totally understand the appeal of collecting, but I'm just not a collector at heart. I've always owned lots of music, but I was ecstatic when I could finally store everything on my hard drive and get rid of the all the CD's (I had previously done the same with tapes) that were sitting around gathering dust.
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbryon
Well, to a 20 yr old like me i've seen this happening at way to close a distance. I will admit though that who knows vinyls may come back a little if this goes through and eventually things will finally crash and who knows what happens then? I have music on all formats although my least favorite is the stupid modern bullshit that is mp3 downloading. Its the culture, ME ME ME and whatever is the easiest is the best way regardless of what happens. I'll buy my vinyls.cds, cassettes and what ever else i want to buy. It just might take a little more time to find them which will make listening to them even more enjoyable.

Also, just how are artists gonna make money now????
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShadow
Excellent insightful remarks, my remarks will not be as insightful, the minute that happens I will not bother buying music on itunes or any of those other type of services. I know I am ancient but I like owning a physical product, I like the thought behind it, the artwork,the line notes, and owning a file is not owning anything, at least not in my eyes.
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterManny
Shadow:

Artists will need to make money the way they did prior to the 70's: by writing terrific songs, building a fanbase and performing live. The days of huge record company advances are gone for all but a tiny few top bands.

Bands are going to also need to realize that the vast riches seen in the past are largely gone. There is no longer (big) money to be made in selling recorded music. Everyone's either giving it away on YouTube or via digital streams, or they are selling singles for 99 cents on iTunes. So the focus has to be on performing live.
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbryon
Andrew @ melodicrock.com has spoken to his contacts in the industry and apparently the "original story on this had no actual inside info" - in other words they made it up.

The end of the cd may be in sight, but not that soon.
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony
@Byron - first of all, a CD is a physical thing. A file is not. Sure, iTunes is supposed to archive them, but that's tying all my music purchasing to one supplier. Secondly, a CD and an mp3 do not sound the same.
November 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
@Christian - Yes, a CD is physical. So is an iPod, BlackBerry or thumbdrive. With regards to music, they all perform the exact same task - they store the digital bits that make up the song.

And you are right that an uncompressed file on a CD *can* sound different from a compressed MP3 file. But that all depends on the amount of compression used, and if you choose to store your music as uncompressed files, there is absolutely zero difference between the file on a CD and the one on your computer/iPod/whatever.

But the reality is there is no need to do that. Even at 128-bits, the differences between a compressed file and the uncompressed files you find on a CD are imperceptible to most people, even with the best equipment. And if you do notice a difference, it's easy to reduce the compression by going to 256-bit, 320-bit, etc.

But this is all a nerdy aside -- ultimately, the most important thing is that you can listen to your music when you want, regardless of format!
November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
I also like having a "physical product" and just can't get into digital downloads. To me there is an "experience" of an "album" (record, cassette, CD), the music, the artwork, the lyrics, the liner notes, etc., there is more to it than a bunch of singles on an ipod. And I agree with the comments that this is another result of the current instant gratification culture.
November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob Rocker
Um, Byron, do you really think a hard drive is as permanent or as reliable as a pressed CD ? You've obviously not used computers much, I've had plenty of hard drive crashes. If you use 0 compression, a CD takes up 800 MB. I guess it comes down to this - do you want to buy disposable music for now, or music you want to keep, forever ? Rob Rocker has expressed my thoughts well, I don't want disposable music, I want to immerse myself in the experience of buying music, reading the booklet and feeling I have bought something I can hold. And I sure don't ever want to buy a song without buying the whole album. Buying the whole album on CD and buying it from iTunes cost about the same, in that sense, it's clear they will make more money from charging the same for a stream of bytes.
November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristian

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