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You Should Listen to CDs


Dead Planet
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[EDITED By Dan: Article courtesy of wired.com. Original link: https://www.wired.com/story/you-should-listen-to-cds/ ]

CDs are dead. In 2020, revenue from sales of compact discs in the US added up to $483 million, a 97 percent drop from the format’s peak in 2000. Only 31.6 million CD units were shipped in the US last year. By contrast, the Bee Gees alone have 16 million monthly listeners on Spotify. How dead are CDs? Deader than disco.

Cause of death: the unbelievable convenience of streaming platforms. For a modest monthly fee, Spotify offers instant access to what feels like every song ever recorded. Its recommendation algorithms, built on constant surveillance of users’ listening habits, consistently deliver top-notch suggestions. It’s amazing. Listening to good music could hardly be easier.

It is, in fact, too easy.

Streaming platforms just aren’t designed with the serious music fan in mind. Back when you had to buy a physical album to listen to it, you really listened to it—even the songs you didn’t like at first. Eventually, some of those tracks would become your favorites. (Other tracks simply sucked, of course.) You paid good money for that CD, after all. Skipping half the tracks felt like an admission of failure.

 

Not so with on-demand streaming. When you can listen to any song, at any time, at no additional cost, there’s no pressure to listen to something you don’t enjoy right away. This can lead to musical tastes that are both broader and shallower. Thanks to Spotify’s recommendation features, I’ve discovered a lot of music, particularly from Latin America, that I might not have come across without the nudge from an algorithm. This is great. Yet at the same time, I very rarely challenge myself to listen to music that I don’t immediately enjoy. Why would I, when I can so easily switch to something else.

 

Indeed, the immediate, frictionless availability of something else keeps me from spending as much time as I otherwise would even with music I really love. In the pre-streaming era, I’d buy an album and listen to it over and over. With Spotify, I often discover a new artist, get really excited about them, and three months later forget about their existence entirely. If it doesn’t occupy space on your wall, it may not occupy space in your mind.

There is an obvious antidote to this condition, one that perhaps has already occurred to you: the vinyl record. Many thousands of words have been written about vinyl’s comeback. There’s a natural symmetry to it. Where streaming turns songs into something ephemeral and interchangeable, a record is very much a thing. It’s big. You can hold it in your hands and admire the artwork on the sleeve. If the problem with Spotify is the lack of friction, well, vinyl records are about as frictiony as you can get. They literally require friction to function.

Another way of putting the above is that records are a colossal pain in the ass. I had a turntable for the past decade. As I got ready to move across the country this summer, thinking hard about what was worth shipping or squeezing into my little car, I realized I hardly ever listened to my records. It’s just too much work. Records get dirty; you have to clean them. Ditto the stylus. Records are huge, and shockingly heavy; it’s hard to find room to store and display them. They’re expensive. Halfway through an album, you have to get up to turn it over. And then you have to get up again when the record ends, unless you want to wear down the needle. As WIRED senior editor—and self-flagellating owner of some 1,300 LPs—Michael Calore puts it, vinyl is “an unwieldy music playback format that sounds worse every single time you listen to it.”

The current vogue for vinyl is an overcorrection. You don’t have to listen to the absolute least convenient music format to escape the prison of hyperconvenience. After I sold my turntable, I decided to revisit the listening technology that came in between the spinning wax and the streaming bits: the compact disc. Unsure how long the experiment would last, I bought a CD boom box (you can still find them, though they’re somewhat scarce) and a couple dozen discs from a used music store.

This is not a nostalgia play. Vinyl has the nostalgia market cornered. But if you look past the visual aesthetics, you’ll admit that CDs accomplish the essential function of turntables, vis-a-vis streaming, without the hassle. That is, they allow you to build a library.

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Since beginning my experiment, I find myself listening to full albums over and over and coming to appreciate tracks that I would skip if I were listening on my phone. Some of the albums I bought from the discount bin didn’t do much for me at first. I might not have given them a second listen on Spotify. But since they’re in my apartment, in a stack next to the boombox, I listen anyway. Most turn out to contain at least a few gems. The Neville Brothers album Yellow Moon, for example, includes some cringey quasi-rap and ponderous ballads, but also some absolute bangers of late-’80s funky swampy soul. Such are the unexpected joys this experiment has brought to my life.

(CDs also sound better than all but the most mint-condition records. Anyone who insists otherwise is probably rich enough to spend $45K on monoblock amplifiers and diamond-tipped styluses—or is just full of it.)

Note that I’m not predicting that CDs are poised for a comeback. To the contrary, the final pillar of my argument depends on that not being the case. Perhaps the best thing about CDs is that they have gotten ridiculously affordable. Thank you, supply and demand. At the used music stores where I live, almost all the CDs are $5 or less. Even new CDs are far cheaper than they were two decades ago. You could pay $35 to own the new Adele album on vinyl—or $9.97 to have it on CD, with money left over to buy two or three more albums.

 

So let the masses stay hooked on streaming while the hipsters spin their overpriced records. The CD is dead; long live the CD.

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On 12/24/2021 at 3:45 PM, Dead Planet said:

Perhaps the best thing about CDs is that they have gotten ridiculously affordable.

What? When did this happen??

Heh. 

Obviously he's referring to used and common CDs. Those of us in this hobby, still buying CDs, are paying out the ass these days. 

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Good article.  

Never thought I'd get into streaming as I loathed it and I was all about physical media.  But I've been converted after CD's disappeared from cars and I was forced into streaming.  Yeah, streaming doesn't sound as immaculate but I've gotten over that.  It's just great having so much music at my fingertips all the time and being able to create any playlist I want in a flash.

I do still buy a few CD's....think I bought 5 or 6 in 2020.  But how many of those have I actually listened to via CD?  Zero.  I've basically only looked at the booklets for lyrics, credits, etc and bought them more just to have and support the artists than to actually use.  I really only have one CD player left and the same machine streams bluetooth so just way easier to stream.

As for vinyl, I just don't get that at all.  I mean, I never liked it when it was all there was.  Never thought it sounded all that great with needles scratching records....I frankly despised vinyl.  I'm really surprised it's made the type of comeback it has.

The industry has clearly changed.  I'd like to see artists start going more outside the box with physical product offers.  Things like earbooks are pretty cool....Load them up with pictures, stories on the band, lyrics, etc and toss a CD in it.  Or maybe add codes into a CD package for online access to a website with exclusive content, discounts at a merch store or whatever.  Basically, just think artists need to find new way to sell their music physically than just tossing out a CD.  I know I'll get to the point fairly soon where I probably stop buying them altogether as it's pretty pointless for me to buy them now if I'm not even using them.    

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41 minutes ago, tts42572 said:

Good article.  

Never thought I'd get into streaming as I loathed it and I was all about physical media.  But I've been converted after CD's disappeared from cars and I was forced into streaming.  Yeah, streaming doesn't sound as immaculate but I've gotten over that.  It's just great having so much music at my fingertips all the time and being able to create any playlist I want in a flash.

I do still buy a few CD's....think I bought 5 or 6 in 2020.  But how many of those have I actually listened to via CD?  Zero.  I've basically only looked at the booklets for lyrics, credits, etc and bought them more just to have and support the artists than to actually use.  I really only have one CD player left and the same machine streams bluetooth so just way easier to stream.

As for vinyl, I just don't get that at all.  I mean, I never liked it when it was all there was.  Never thought it sounded all that great with needles scratching records....I frankly despised vinyl.  I'm really surprised it's made the type of comeback it has.

The industry has clearly changed.  I'd like to see artists start going more outside the box with physical product offers.  Things like earbooks are pretty cool....Load them up with pictures, stories on the band, lyrics, etc and toss a CD in it.  Or maybe add codes into a CD package for online access to a website with exclusive content, discounts at a merch store or whatever.  Basically, just think artists need to find new way to sell their music physically than just tossing out a CD.  I know I'll get to the point fairly soon where I probably stop buying them altogether as it's pretty pointless for me to buy them now if I'm not even using them.    

that's pretty much where I am.

I bought 7 cds in 2021 and the only place I play them is in the car, but I'm pretty sure this will be the last cd player I have in a car when the lease expires in 18 months.

I've had Spotify now for about 5 years and my cd buying has declined year on year. 

Next year I will only buy a select few - things like Degreed, Threshold but I doubt it will be more than say 5.

The main thing I miss tbh is the booklets and lyrics.  Would be great if they sold them in isolation for a few quid. Prob never happen. 

As for vinyl. Way too expensive. I love the product itself but its just not a viable option for me going into 2022 and beyond. 

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7 hours ago, nyoilers said:

I probably bought more new CD's this year than in the past 10 years.

Luckily I bought earlier in the year a 2017 Suburu Forester that came with a CD player.

Long Live The CD !!

Lot of new cars do not have CD players in them, only USB portal holes

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7 hours ago, Doug said:

My daughter keeps pushing me to sign up for Spotify. 

I have a spotify, its nice when your mowing the yard and don't want to think about anything and like Pandora it kinda just plays stuff like the couple songs you previous played/liked.

That said NOTHING will replace or displace physical media. NOTHING compares to the look, feel, taste, aesthetic, of an album, cassette, cd or VHS tape.

'Nuff said.

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1 hour ago, martinsane said:

I have a spotify, its nice when your mowing the yard and don't want to think about anything and like Pandora it kinda just plays stuff like the couple songs you previous played/liked.

That said NOTHING will replace or displace physical media. NOTHING compares to the look, feel, taste, aesthetic, of an album, cassette, cd or Betamax tape.

'Nuff said.


Fixed it for you. Nothing quite like a Betamax tape. Anyway, I have amassed an insane amount of CDs over the last few years. Some I have bought even though I probably shouldn't have. It's hard to pass up a sale when the seller is practically giving the CDs away. I believe I am at 700+ CDs at this point.

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One thing I have always loved about the cd is how hardy they are. I have cds from the mid 80s that play like they are new. Also, I might add that I have quite a few cds that are not even on Spotify which is far from an exhaustive library. And I'm old-school. I like to listen to an entire album, as it was intended. I like a lot of deeper tracks that I'd never hear if I relied on streaming. And my Yamaha system really makes the music sound sweet. I know the compression of files can limit the music. I really can hear the difference between a cd and a streaming service. Long live physical media! 

(Ps. Any Aussie wanting to sell their collections cheaply, hit me up...)

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I guess I'm also a CD guy, but I totally understand the value of streaming and I suspect one of these days I'll take the plunge. I still own an iPOD (I know old guy!) and have moved a lot of my CD's to this device. i probably have about 300 CD's and the same number of albums, which sadly I rarely play. I have to chuckle a bit on what "martinsane" said above about mowing the lawn. So true. I TOTALLY agree, it's the best time to listen to what I want to listen to! 

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12 hours ago, Jacob M. said:


Fixed it for you. Nothing quite like a Betamax tape. Anyway, I have amassed an insane amount of CDs over the last few years. Some I have bought even though I probably shouldn't have. It's hard to pass up a sale when the seller is practically giving the CDs away. I believe I am at 700+ CDs at this point.

Never did the Betamax, probably should have but I did have a snazzy Laserdisc player (wish I wouldn't have succumbed to the non logic of a not so positive influencer and sold it along with too many other regrettable items).

 

And since you and I are neighbors, spread some of that "seller practically giving away their CD's". ;)

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USB sticks aren't so bad. They way I've loaded mine, it still encourages listening to albums in their entirety. It's really just streaming that is negatively impacting the way we experience music. 

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On 12/28/2021 at 10:49 AM, martinsane said:

Never did the Betamax, probably should have but I did have a snazzy Laserdisc player (wish I wouldn't have succumbed to the non logic of a not so positive influencer and sold it along with too many other regrettable items).

 

And since you and I are neighbors, spread some of that "seller practically giving away their CD's". ;)


Laserdisc is a neat format, but much like vinyl it's not very practical unless you have a lot of space. I wouldn't mind having one at some point in the future. Right now I am building my Betamax collection. Getting into Video8 as well.

There was a local Goodwill that had a boatload of hard rock/metal cds appear one day. $2 a piece. So I bought 38 CDs that day. That Goodwill no longer exists. :(  Then there are the sales at sites like Perris Records. They had a sale not that long ago with CDs as low as 50 cents. So I bought a lot regardless of whether or not I knew exactly what I was buying. And it looks like the Perris sale is back.

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On 12/30/2021 at 5:21 AM, KarpetRydOFunk said:

USB sticks aren't so bad. They way I've loaded mine, it still encourages listening to albums in their entirety. It's really just streaming that is negatively impacting the way we experience music. 

Yeah, listening to music digitally shouldn't in any way be immediately equated with listening to full albums or not. That's as easy to do as it ever was, if that's your intention. Well, of course it's actually easier now, and you can listen to a complete discography with the click of a button or two, if that's your intention. 

Anyway, I have a CD player in my car which I was using every time I drove my vehicle by myself. Sadly, there is a Cauterize CD stuck in it now, that I really don't want to lose, that has been in there for about 5 months now, after I drove to work one day and it's been jammed ever since. Had a few similar issues prior to this incident and the CD always came out, eventually. Regrettably, this one seems stuck for good and I'm actually really not sure what to do about it. :(

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1 hour ago, Geoff said:

Yeah, listening to music digitally shouldn't in any way be immediately equated with listening to full albums or not. That's as easy to do as it ever was, if that's your intention. Well, of course it's actually easier now, and you can listen to a complete discography with the click of a button or two, if that's your intention. 

Anyway, I have a CD player in my car which I was using every time I drove my vehicle by myself. Sadly, there is a Cauterize CD stuck in it now, that I really don't want to lose, that has been in there for about 5 months now, after I drove to work one day and it's been jammed ever since. Had a few similar issues prior to this incident and the CD always came out, eventually. Regrettably, this one seems stuck for good and I'm actually really not sure what to do about it. :(

Probably have to remove your stereo. 

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7 hours ago, Geoff said:

Yeah, listening to music digitally shouldn't in any way be immediately equated with listening to full albums or not. That's as easy to do as it ever was, if that's your intention. Well, of course it's actually easier now, and you can listen to a complete discography with the click of a button or two, if that's your intention. 

Anyway, I have a CD player in my car which I was using every time I drove my vehicle by myself. Sadly, there is a Cauterize CD stuck in it now, that I really don't want to lose, that has been in there for about 5 months now, after I drove to work one day and it's been jammed ever since. Had a few similar issues prior to this incident and the CD always came out, eventually. Regrettably, this one seems stuck for good and I'm actually really not sure what to do about it. :(

Might have to get a new car.

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7 hours ago, Geoff said:

Yeah, listening to music digitally shouldn't in any way be immediately equated with listening to full albums or not. That's as easy to do as it ever was, if that's your intention. Well, of course it's actually easier now, and you can listen to a complete discography with the click of a button or two, if that's your intention. 

Anyway, I have a CD player in my car which I was using every time I drove my vehicle by myself. Sadly, there is a Cauterize CD stuck in it now, that I really don't want to lose, that has been in there for about 5 months now, after I drove to work one day and it's been jammed ever since. Had a few similar issues prior to this incident and the CD always came out, eventually. Regrettably, this one seems stuck for good and I'm actually really not sure what to do about it. :(

 

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2 hours ago, Dead Planet said:

 

 

On a similar theme to your post, has anyone ever accidentally damaged or destroyed a beloved CD?

This wasn't an accident, but back in the day, my best friend and his wife (who I was also great friends with) had quite the tumultuous marriage shall we say.

They're not together now, but back in '93 during an argument, my mates wife went over to his CD collection, randomly pulled out "XYZ - Hungry" and proceeded to snap the disc in half.

He was devastated. 

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4 hours ago, Darkstone said:

 

On a similar theme to your post, has anyone ever accidentally damaged or destroyed a beloved CD?

This wasn't an accident, but back in the day, my best friend and his wife (who I was also great friends with) had quite the tumultuous marriage shall we say.

They're not together now, but back in '93 during an argument, my mates wife went over to his CD collection, randomly pulled out "XYZ - Hungry" and proceeded to snap the disc in half.

He was devastated. 

That's grounds for divorce.

I accidentally left a cd in the car on a 45 degree day and it warped. It was a rare Aussie metal CD called "Primrose Path" by Suiciety. Eventually (about ten years later) I found a replacement.  Don't leave kids, dogs or cds in hot cars :(

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8 hours ago, Darkstone said:

 

On a similar theme to your post, has anyone ever accidentally damaged or destroyed a beloved CD?

This wasn't an accident, but back in the day, my best friend and his wife (who I was also great friends with) had quite the tumultuous marriage shall we say.

They're not together now, but back in '93 during an argument, my mates wife went over to his CD collection, randomly pulled out "XYZ - Hungry" and proceeded to snap the disc in half.

He was devastated. 

Holy shit!.....and people wonder why husbands kill their wives....;)

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14 hours ago, Darkstone said:

 

On a similar theme to your post, has anyone ever accidentally damaged or destroyed a beloved CD?

This wasn't an accident, but back in the day, my best friend and his wife (who I was also great friends with) had quite the tumultuous marriage shall we say.

They're not together now, but back in '93 during an argument, my mates wife went over to his CD collection, randomly pulled out "XYZ - Hungry" and proceeded to snap the disc in half.

He was devastated. 

Glad it wasn't the John Bobbit treatment

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