Days after releasing and trying to decide on the final mix of The Life of Pablo, Kanye proclaimed that he was absolutely done with CDs. Of course the Internet banded together to tell us it was time to put the kibosh on the compact disc. Once a commodity and a default method of enjoying music, now a neat little drink coaster, its future looks bleak.
The “renaissance” that cassettes and vinyl have been going through can never really translate to CDs. The booming sales and interest have been fueled more by the “quirks” these mediums possess and whatever millennials think are cool is bound to make money somehow.
If you’re old enough, you’ll remember scores of CD aisles that took up Tower Records or your local tech appliance megastore. Tower Records bit the dust a long time ago and now Best Buy only has a small shelf with Adele CDs. Correlating with the troves of people using and subscribing to streaming services, CD sales have been way less than stellar and barely making any sort of profit to cover production costs.
In a semi-dystopian near distant future which was caused by President Trump and his tiny hands, you can count on Urban Outfitters, or whatever the equivalent is in twenty something years, will be upselling CDs at a lofty sum of whatever today’s $20 will inflate to.
While I am getting ahead of myself here and can’t really predict how much nostalgia or “retro-ness” will rule in the future, but look how vinyl came back and eventually snowballed from a trend to a semi-serious thing again, like …. floppy disks.
Speaking of the power of nostalgia, I’m still one of those guys who enjoy making mix CDs (or mixtapes when I have a capable tape deck on hand). Hell, it’s probably the best way for music dorks (like myself) to express themselves. Making a mix-vinyl is out of the question and mixtapes has becoming increasingly difficult to make due to the fact that tape decks are harder to track down, so snagging a bundle of blank CDs at the office supply store still remains the most viable.
It’s a snap to add up your favorite songs on Spotify or dare I say, Tidal, and text the link to your friend or special someone, but it’s doesn’t have the same gravity as the meticulous construction of a mix CD. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the Internet and streaming services have devalued playlist curation, but it just doesn’t have the same impact as it used to when were Spotify-less or Soundcloud-less.
No doubt the Internet has made sharing music stupidly easy, but at the same time has helped made it easier to ignore. You friend sends you a link or an mp3, you say, “oh that’s nice I’ll listen to it later,” but links and the mixed quality in promotional emails can easily get lost or tossed into your lost to-do list.
CDs are physical, they’re there on my desk, in my hand, in my backpack, haunting my dreams. I could only imagine the real estate upgrade Bob Boilen had to install for his PO box, but I’m sure he and his interns are probably more inclined to look through. Even when I’m strolling through the streets of Manhattan, I get stopped once in a while by an ambitious MC trying to pass out as many mix CDs as they can, and I’ve always let my curiosity grab a hold of me to take a listen when I get home.
Its still cheap and easy for artists/bands to put their record on a CD and sell, albeit not as pretty as cassettes or wax.
There’s no such thing as the best music format, only the best for the way you listen music. If you like physical formats, its cool, if you stream, that’s cool too. But to say that the CD is kaputt, that’s where I draw the line. Sales are going on the down and down, and probably never again will it account for platinum and gold record sales. Maybe its the nostalgia, or maybe its that I still buy CDs, I won’t say that this is the end. Like your copy of No Doubt’s Greatest Hits hiding under your car seat, the CD hasn’t gone away completely, its just on an indefinite hiatus.