Home > Author blabber > “No One Buys CDs Anymore” … Myth or the Hard Truth?

“No One Buys CDs Anymore” … Myth or the Hard Truth?

No, not interested anymore?

Within the past week I have had two people tell me that no one buys CDs anymore.  They said it in a casual, matter of fact way as if I was obviously going to nod my head in utter agreement.  I smiled (grimaced?) knowingly, but the reaction was meant to hide the secret of my truth.  Geez, I buy CDs all the time and in bunches.  I can’t imagine it to be so, but perhaps I am one of the rare people who still value the lightweight, slightly rectangular plastic media.  A few years back this switch to non-physical preference might have been scoffed at, or at least considered still a ways off, but the facts of 2012 have been revealed.

According to an article by Gigwise posted around two months ago, CD sales have been surpassed by digital downloads at least in the United Kingdom.  The financial amounts appear in pounds and UK record labels are referenced, but it is most likely that something similar has already occurred in the United States.  Hey, convenience always wins, so everyone probably saw this coming with the technology boom going on.  In addition, whenever sought after items are only worth a dollar (erm, I understand this feeling) it is understandable that such items fly off the virtual shelves.  To get that Top 40 tune that gets repeated over and over, how can you not be willing to shell out a dollar to listen to it even more often?  Even with the instant access to songs and albums, does that mean that the purchasing of physical media is truly on the outs?

Well, I can understand why people would shy away from CDs.  For one, it doesn’t help that the record labels and music stores still have a tendency to overprice their new products.  I remember in the nineties when I would go into one of those horrid music stores in the mall and shake my head at a $17.99 price tag on a one hit wonder.  Prices have since dropped down to the $12 range for new releases, though those older discs still are stuck with $14-15 tags that, honestly, can make one think twice about whether they really want to listen to the album or not.  But you know, digital songs are usually a dollar or more each, so it’s not like one saves a whole lot more money if they buy the album online.  Perhaps that is where people just download track-by-track, ignoring the artist’s entire collection of work.  Unfortunately this method prevents one from allowing a track to ‘grow’ on them, as has happened many times to me with my collection.  I would encourage anyone to really consider getting an entire album for this reason, since one’s taste changes over time.  Plus, hearing the same tracks over and over again must get a little dull, eh?

Then there’s the durability issue.  Due to the natural way of things, CDs are delicate things.  They can be scratched, cracked, shattered, or even left on a surface to rub against something unpleasant.  Spending however much on a disc that may end up skipping if not taken care of can be very frustrating to the clumsy or careless music fan, so it is no wonder that digital files are more appealing.  The portability of such virtual tunes also prevents damage, unlike CDs that can pick up a few nicks at each stop in its journey. Plus, you can transfer digital files to friends or other locations rather easily, while CDs one has to burn a copy to hand over on one of those boring-looking CD-R discs (which aren’t too durable themselves over time).  Hmm, I should just move onto the next reason before I convince myself to switch over!

The most obvious reason why virtual purchases have overrun physical purchases is, again, the convenience.  Back in the day everyone loved the milk man delivering the goods door-to-door, but there has never been an overweight, grizzled, and probably odored man trying to sell music on foot.  One still has to go out (and actually find) a music store, find the album, buy it, and bring it all the way home.  Never mind that while you’re in the store you could find other albums to investigate or other people to talk to about music, it just takes too loooong to geeeeet stufffff!  Yes, you should have added a pre-schoolers whine to that last bit.  With downloading, one can get their record instantly, listen to it quickly with a few clicks, and then dispose of it to the recesses of one’s hard drive.  Hey, why even pay for it?  Seems that music sounds best when it’s free, or so I’ve heard.

Well, now is the part of the article where I defend myself and my archaic purchasing actions.  I, for one, do not think I will ever retire fully to the digital download method of obtaining music.  One could say I’m one who doesn’t like convenience, prefers my music to dangerously exist, and likes to let money flow out of my ears.  Well, my main reason for continuing to purchase CDs is the thrill of finding something great.

This could be by accident, where I am shopping for one particular record and stumble upon a couple of new releases I hadn’t considered picking up before.  How would I be attracted to them all of a sudden?  Album design, maybe a discounted price, or possibly a display/recommendation that a store has put up to point it out.  I also know that it’s not just the music that makes an album interesting, but the entire package.  Those liner notes, pictures, and lyrics can enhance the music so much more, and I always find myself looking at a few things when I listen to a disc.  Immersing oneself into the full environment of music and not in front of a computer screen would not only make one’s buying experience more visually appealing but likely more enriching as well.

In the case of dollar bin diving as I’ve been known to do, I have found so much random music that I have enjoyed just by picking up something very affordable.  People usually associate a cheap price tag with cheap product quality, but that as absolutely not necessarily so with music.  Getting discs for five dollars or less (and even much, much less) can score you a song, a few songs, or an entire album of good music.  Not knowing anything about the artist makes it more exciting, as one can go off of an artist’s name, album title, album design, song titles, or record label to follow one’s curiosity.  Sure, one can glean much of this information off of the Internet or review sites, but c’mon, you know it’s not the same thing.  If you aren’t one to quibble over a few dollars then the musical gambles are a lot more invigorating when the physical discs are in your hands and not at your fingertips.

In conclusion, as seen with the resurgence of vinyl (cool!) and cassettes (yeesh), I don’t think purchases of CDs and other physical media will ever truly die out.  Whether it is the desire for something tangible, tunes that an audio purist prefers, or those periodic surges of trendiness CDs will always be bought.  So to respond to the statement of “no one buys CDs anymore”, one could say that’s inherently false.  However, by tweaking the statement to “odds are that no one buys CDs as their primary music source anymore” might be more accurate.  Take a group of ten people and see how many of them declare that they primarily purchase CDs over digital downloads.  Odds are that those CD buyers will be outnumbered, but they certainly won’t be unrepresented.

What I don’t entirely understand is why those who buy digital music albums don’t just buy the physical albums instead.  As we all know one can easily rip tracks from a CD, in any digital format that they want, and still have the best of both worlds.  CD purchasing journey aside, why settle for a sub-par bitrate or a commitment to a particular download company (cough, Apple) when one can just truly own an album?  You’re spending that amount of money for the digital record anyway!  With Blu-ray discs coming with a digital copy these days, it seems that one might also be interested in having a physical copy backup for their digital audio files.  Well hey, whatever, don’t pay attention to me.  I’m a CD-buying looney.

As for me, I can make peace with the fact that CDs are on the decline.  I, for one, have never been on the cutting edge of trends and have little desire to fall in line.  This could be evidence of my unfortunate descent into fuddy duddiness, but so be it.  Friends and acquaintances will continue to declare the CD dead, though perhaps I’ll challenge them as to why they don’t bother with CDs themselves.  Then I could play the devil’s advocate and see where it leads, but maybe it’s a pointless exercise.  Most people will always want to find the more convenient method to attain and use what they desire, so how will CDs or vinyl ever convince such people?  I guess if one doesn’t have any interest in going beyond the mere song or two consisted of just bits, they’ll never know what they’re really missing.

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