Video killed the radio star, tape was hailed to be a killer of music (yes tapes, origin of the term mix tape and sole inventor of yet another use for the pencil) but now is digital content and cloud saving killing nearly all forms of art?
Since the internet’s birth, information has become more and more readily available and accessible to nearly everyone on the planet.
Older generations are now in touch with the internet as closely (if not more so) than the more recent generations who were responsible for driving its success, but with this constant demand for access, media and the way it is shared or sold has gone through a big change and quite possibly suffered for it.
Now I’m not going to trail through the history of the internet and illegal downloading as I’m sure everyone is now more than aware of the past and what has led up to our current market, but lets think about the current state of music as a starting point.
Programs such as Spotify offer you the chance to listen to anything you want completely free, any artist’s whole back catalogue at your finger tips without having to search anywhere other than Apple’s Spotlight and move nothing other than your eyes.
Top companies such as Apple offer better exclusives for choosing to download an album from iTunes as opposed to physically buying the CD.
So how has this affected us? How has the landscape changed?
This year is set to be the year CDs will die out, with many major labels backing the idea that albums will only be available through download and streaming, leaving CDs to only be created and available in limited edition forms and only for the next four to five years, Amazon has supposedly won a deal to be the prime retailer of these limited edition runs of physical albums.
Is this a good thing though? Do we really favour a filled hard drive to a stacked shelf?
For all of the major labels and companies behind the music industry, sure this step forward would be great, as their costs would be kept to a complete minimum, money would only be spent on album production and none spent on physical creation or stock storage, profits would rise greatly especially considering downloading has caused the landscape to change once before allowing labels to take a much bigger chunk of an artists touring revenue! But what about the rest of the industry and the greater community?
Firstly, album artwork would take a hit, (in my opinion) leaving everything to be covered with that cursed bland grey square and black music note for everything (thank you iTunes). However, on a bigger scale, this would ruin a lot of shops on the High Street, from big retailers such as HMV who already have trouble paying the bills, to smaller more pure record stores who won’t be able to win a fight with Amazon for the right to stock limited edition albums.
As an old fashioned kind of guy (I’m still only 22 in body, just maybe not in mind) I despair at this leaving behind of CDs; how can you not love that feeling of buying a new album, flicking through its finely printed book with art spilled from someones mind and poured all over it, before placing the disc into your player or computer to hear what’s new?
With downloads are we really getting a better deal? Fair enough its quicker to access, but once the CD is erased from memory, whats to stop the big companies pushing up the price and charging the same for a download as they would a physical disc?
We’ve been at the edge of this battle before, of course. When the CD first came out it threatened to destroy the vinyl, luckily the vinyl survived through purists keeping the demand high.
The humble CD may not be so lucky in this age however, with the past and future generations so focused on the speed at which they can get new information I believe they may just not care, it is quite normal now for people to get an artist’s top singles and never even attempt to hear the whole album meaning quite a lot of music listeners are beginning to miss the point! (Wave goodbye to the concept album.) Albums can no longer be a journey but instead each being forced into a greatest hits, with nothing more than a short punchy pop song, over and over again.
This problem isn’t exclusive to music unfortunately, with movies being ever more popular in the digital form and the next generation of consoles being considered for cloud devices that don’t allow for discs at all!
Even home computers are starting to phase out optical drives to save on space as apparently when surveyed less than 30% of people even use their disc drive any more!
I, for one, do not trust everything I own being stored on a server far from my reach.
Now obviously these are just my thoughts and just my point of view, all I am hoping to share is my love for music and its printed formats, vinyl is the king of music with the CD its prince in my mind but I’d love to know: what exactly does everybody else out there think?
I really hope I am not alone!