We're all well aware of the obvious reasons the CD should die-- it's over-priced and it's ugly. When the digital age was ushered in, consumers were fed the lie that this new technology meant higher manufacturing costs, when in fact it meant far lower costs. A CD can be manufactured and packaged for under $2.00, but CDs were immediately retailed at $15.95 to $17.95.
These days you can download an entire record from itunes faster than you can open the same CD's packaging. And once opened, the average jewel cases lasts about 15 minutes before cracking. Then there's all those tiny liner notes-- lyrics on a Britney Spears CD. Why?
As if we need further justification, I give you some better reasons to wish the swift and ignoble death of the CD.
It Deserves To Die Because It's A Wasteful, Unreliable Storage Device That Sounds Like Crap.
800 MB on a piece of technology that's physically larger than a 250 gigabyte hard drive? I ought to be able to get all the knowledge known to man on something as spacious as a CD. This is the CD's ultimate flaw. It's the same thing as a file that sits comfortably on about a millimeter of your computer's hard drive. At least with an LP you get analog audio, something, uh, different! Why buy a product like this when you can store a hundred thousand songs in your shirt pocket?
The sampling rate on CDs was set too low from the get-go. They sound thin, two dimensional, and all that "clarity" you think you're hearing is just the absence of surface noise. In reality, all the subsonic and ultra sonic frequencies that give audio it's rich coloration are absent from CDs. CDs are mixed and mastered to sound good on a Discman or an ipod with headphones.
But some of you will never believe me. You'll cling to the illusion that the CD is superior. So, ok, for you the sound quality might be debatable. But as for durability, shame on the industry. About half of my older CDs no longer play. And a skipping CD is ten times more annoying than a few skips in an LP. This morning I was trying to rip one of my song cuts onto a new 250 gigabyte hard drive but my ripper didn't even recognize the format of the disc. It was a Warner Brothers CD from 1987.
And just for kickers, here's something you may not know : A 52X CD-ROM drive spins a CD at 30,000 rpm. CDs cannot handle this much force, they start to warp and can explode into millions of tiny fragments. This isn't a myth. Talk to anyone who repairs computers and you'll get the truth-- they can and do explode in some newer computers. Damage is usually limited to the interior metal casing of the CD-ROM drive.
It Deserves To Die Because It Has Fostered A Disposable Music Mentality Among Artists.
The CD did to music what the glue-bound paperback did to fiction. Very few artists are making music for the long haul anymore. Posterity is a word that never gets spoken inside a recording studio. If you consider that everything Alan Lomax ever recorded was recorded specifically FOR posterity you get some idea of how far we've slipped.
Why is the CD responsible? In the 1990s it became so easy and inexpensive to package music that virtually anyone with spare lunch money could afford to press 500 CDs. There was a glut of new music on the market, most of it bad.
Also, the CD is simply an abused object. It gets left on the floor of your car, or in the trunk (these are things you'd never do with an LP). It gets thrown into the back seat while you're driving. They get damaged by being forced into car CD players, yanked out while navigating the Interstate, and left out of the jewel case in the change tray. They get stuck in CD players (when was the last time an LP got stuck on your turn table?)
Then there's the ability of the consumer to randomize playback order, and to pre-program skip tracks, which has made artists think differently about the music they release. There are more "out-takes" and "alternate mixes" and just plain lame songs on the average CD. Not that LPs never had weak tracks. Of course they did. But not intentionally weak, as in, "this wasn't good enough for the record but we'll throw it out there anyway and you can just skip that track".
While some consumers may treasure these "value added" features, it's hard to see any real benefit to the art of record making that has come from them. Artists think less about packaging, track sequencing, and overall concept than they ever did when making an LP. And most of all, they think less about song quality, because hey, it's just gonna get thrown on the floor of the car, right?
So, will it get worse after the CD dies? I don't see how.
It Deserves To Die Because The Potential Was Squandered.
Between the mid 1980s and the mid-1990s the record industry had an unprecedented opportunity to develop new media and create a new golden millennium for artistry. Profits from the re-issuing of LPs on CDs were astronomical. This is information you aren't supposed to have : the reason the record industry is dying is because the CD is dying, and the CD is dying because it was obsolete from the get-go. This was simply a way for the industry to rake in dollars from catalogs of LPs that were earning pennies. They didn't re-license the songs or re-negotiate the artist's royalties. They didn't have to pay studio costs, promotion costs, or produce expensive videos for MTV. They just put the Beatles on CD, jacked up the price by 30%, and sat back to smoke a fat cigar. "We're brilliant" they thought. And where did all that money go? Most of it went into CEO's and shareholders' pockets. The rest went into bad over-budgeted commercial records. The industry became addicted to these profits like Crack. There was no vision, no foresight regarding the Internet, ipods, or the eventual death of the CD.
What should've happened is the record industry should've used the profits to revitalize the art of record making. They should've alloted funds for artists who didn't necessarily fit the commercial music mold. They should've done field recording and sought out more world music. They should have seen the need for a vital jazz and blues arm of the label and fostered these artists by signing them to long term low-pressure contracts. They should've done what the indies are doing now. The consumer is showing the labels what they wanted all along, and it wasn't a dozen Britney Spears clones. It was pre-war blues; it was Blue Note jazz; it was Brett Dennon and Ani Difranco and Gillian Welch; it was Pete Seeger songs; it was Ska, Reagge, and Celtic. It was, strange as this might seem to you major label morons, REAL MUSIC.