Saturday morning quotes 2.46: The CD lives
As we wind down from the release of our new CD John Dowland: A Pilgrimes Solace, its time to reflect a bit on the viability of CDs as a format for experiencing recorded music.
While we fully embrace the convenience of digital downloads, and have no qualms about making our recordings available in this format, we have a slight problem with the deceptive sleight of hand with which the music industry has played the consumer – yet again.
“In our digital world you don’t own stuff, you just license it: Corporations and lawmakers have put us on course for a world where consumers do not own the things they buy…”
From an article by Dan Gillmour, guardian.co.uk, Friday 5 April 2013
On a daily basis, we see the erosion of real content and quality on so many fronts, and it all has to do with the unpleasant imposition of a cynical business model upon every facet of our lives. In the case of the music industry, consumers have been duped into thinking that ‘possessing’ millions of MP3s is is better than sensibly building a library of carefully considered recordings. They want you to think that all those digital ones and zeros that comprise an MP3 can be tucked away and retrieved in a way that streamlines one’s life.
And now it turns out that the consumer doesn’t even own MP3s. They are merely licensed for limited use.
Here’s a radical idea: We propose that the CD – or what is abstractly labeled ‘Physical Product’ in the industry – is not dead. MP3s are yet another indication confirming the ugly truth that we have all been had – yet again – by an aggressive music industry campaign aimed at giving the consumer less quality for more money while paying recording artists less for their work. And now we learn that the consumer really doesn’t even own the digital product.
Managing information stored on your ipod, computer hard drive, or dwelling in the mythical ‘cloud‘not only dupes the unwitting consumer, but it also dehumanizes the act of mindfully experiencing music. And messing about with MP3s actually takes more time from your life than simply picking up a CD, playing it, and returning it to its place when done. These are physical and organizational acts that do not require learning and recalling a specialized sequence of menus and commands; punching a series of tiny buttons or smearing a miniscule display screen with greasy thumbprints. Despite what we are told by digital purveyors, taking a CD off the shelf, handling it, using it, enjoying it, and putting it away does not represent a series of hurdles and onerous indignities to be avoided or delegated; these are normal acts of a modern human being.
Besides, at least someone in the music industry is actually still making a bit of money on the CD format.
“It’s arguable that the CD will ever go away completely — at least within the next decade or two. Even if CD revenue drops 20% a year, the format will still have $217 million of revenues in 2023.” – Glenn Peoples, Billboard
It’s true that CDs are more cumbersome to store than MP3s, and much less attractive than the LPs they replaced so many years ago. Sure, plastic jewel cases are a nuisance at best, if not a downright environmental catastrophe at worst. But playing a CD allows the listener to have a physical interaction with they way he or she chooses to hear music. A CD will reveal the coherence of a recorded program that may represent a theme or may have grown from a concert production that features an unfolding progression of music. A CD will provide notes and background information for the listener to read, react to, and perhaps be informed by perusing.