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Music Biz: All I Got for the CD's 30th Birthday Was A $5 Credit To...

Posted by - 02:29 PM on 10/04/12
Head to the replies to check out the latest Music Biz column, about the CD's latest birthday, how we're going to pass on music to our kids, and how newer generations are going to appreciate music.
Displaying posts 1 - 13 of 13
02:31 PM on 10/04/12
Thomas Nassiff
retired staff member
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The CD turned 30 years old on Monday. That's a pretty significant birthday, isn't it? That's when young people start to worry about getting older. I'm 30 years old and I don't have my life figured out yet? Everything is in shambles.

Well, the CD is in shambles too, but it's not for nothing. The compact disc had a great run as the universe's primary medium of music distribution from 1982 until the takeover of the Internet (date not conclusive), providing the music industry with by far its most successful product ever. Album sales skyrocketed with the ease and accessibility of CDs, as it made it possible to purchase a single, relatively cheap copy of an album to listen to in your home, car, office, basically anywhere. While that may seem trivial now, in an age where we take advantage of technologies that enable us to wirelessly stream digital files that are stored in the cloud, it wasn't always such a simple issue. You can't play a vinyl record in a car and you can't play a cassette tape at a desktop computer. The CD was a boon for the industry.

In music history, only 30 albums have sold over 30 million copies worldwide...and of the 11 of those that were released before the birth of the compact disc, none of them would have reached their sales number had they not been released in this format. Michael Jackson's Thriller had the fortunate advantage of being a phenomenal pop record that took advantage of the CD's breakout and a newfangled product called the music video in 1982. The result was the best-selling album ever...and of Thriller's 29-million-plus sales in North America, a shocking estimated 82 percent of them have been in the compact disc format.

On the same day I read about the CD's 30th birthday - in fact, within minutes after reading about it - I got an offer for a $5 credit to Amazon.com's MP3 store. All I had to do was input my student email and I would get a voucher delivered instantaneously. Now, if this were 30 or 20 or maybe even 10 years ago, and someone offered me a $5 credit toward any CD I wanted, I would have probably taken that right away. But a $5 MP3 credit? Is it really even worth it? When I spend money on music, it's usually on a physical product - and if I just want to download something, isn't it easier to find a pirated link than it is to download a coupon code, then go to Amazon's store and choose five different songs to get for free?

I ended up getting my voucher and downloading five Top 40 songs I had never heard but interested me. But even that hesitation - the mindset of "Is free music even worth my time?" - speaks leaps and bounds about the drastic transformations the industry has gone through. Would our parents have turned down a free CD single being handed out at the door of their local record store decades ago? Probably not. And not only would they have taken the CD, but they probably would have listened to it! But how many times have you seen a free MP3 download advertised on a site like AbsolutePunk and just ignored it? How many times have people sitting in tents at Warped Tour offered you a free sampler CD with, like, a zillion bands on it and you didn't bother to walk the 10 feet to pick one up off the table? More so, how many times have you taken that free CD and never put it in a (gasp!) optical drive to listen to it?

We used to have to try to actively seek out content from our favorite bands. We used to search for their Myspace or Purevolume page to find out the latest information about them. Now, how hard is for a music fan to avoid getting bombarded with too much information about bands they honestly don't care about? At the beginning of the 2000s, if a band sent you a message on Myspace about a new album release date, you probably would have checked them out. Maybe you would have bought their album at Target, maybe you would have downloaded it on Napster. In 2012, if a band invites you to a Facebook event advertising their new record's release date, you're simply annoyed. No, you're not just annoyed, you're pissed off about it! If you have the energy and willpower, you may even make the effort to click "ignore" on that band's event invites, or whatever.

The same day I read about the CD's birthday, I stumbled upon an article titled "Who Owns Your Downloaded Music After You Die?" The article was about the legal ramifications of transferring possession of a library of songs purchased on iTunes to another family member following the owner's death. A sober topic, indeed, but an interesting one nonetheless. But I'm not interested in who gets my digital music library after I die. How am I going to write about that in my will? When I perish, please donate my organs to science and dump my ashes in the lovely lake in my backyard where I spent all my time after I retired. Oh, also, I'm leaving my 200,000 MP3 files to my grandsons and granddaughters. They can split it however they want.

Seriously - how depressing is that? I was lucky enough to inherit a modest collection my dad's vinyl records when I was a freshman in college. He bought me my first record player and gave me this box of LPs and a few 45s that hadn't been played in years, and those were the only records I owned. I listened to all of them at least once - a lot of them were albums that I grew up on, that I had the opportunity to experience in a brand-new way all these years later. I started writing for this very music website only months after getting those from my dad...and now I have my own collection of hundreds of records as vinyl has made a resurgence, and I'm the manager of record label that focuses mainly on vinyl.

But what are my grandsons and granddaughters going to do with my MP3s? By the time I'm old enough to be dead, technology will have advanced to some unfathomable degree where all you have to do to hear a song is speak its name to your holographic computer thing. At least if you pass on a collection of records, or a collection of CDs even, there's going to be some sort of mystery behind that. When you're a young person, you're naturally interested by new things. Vinyl records are so old (even though they may be hip right now), that by the time we're ready to pass on our collections to the next generation, they're going to be new again. There will be the curiosity of scrounging for a record player, the anticipation of placing that needle down for the first time. We all love music to an immense degree - why wouldn't we want to give our children or our children's children the chance to love it as much as we do?

As the CD celebrates its 30th birthday and heads toward its inevitable irrelevance, it's important to think about how young people today are appreciating music. Well, first off, they're not appreciating it. Kids in middle school and high school are listening to songs on YouTube on their iPhones on the bus to class...not caring about who made that song, what that band is doing to support itself, when that band is going to be playing live in their town. We like to think that passionate musicians will always find a way to make themselves heard. Oh, they'll find a way to get their songs out there...they'll give it away for free, they'll start their own label, they'll just stream it on their website, they'll throw it at you in a digital ball of fire that will hit your iPhone and immediately start playing their leadoff dub-dance single. This is a myth that we flatter ourselves with. As new generations surface, they will have less and less passion dedicated to music because less and less of them will get the "full experience" that we talk about so much. How will we get another Gaslight Anthem if a kid never dusts off an old Elvis LP or Springsteen 45? How will we get another Brand New if no one passes on their Nirvana CDs? How will anyone write a guitar riff when all we have laying around are computers and synthesizers?

Happy birthday, CD.

02:55 PM on 10/04/12
This Don't Look Like LAX
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metallikunt's Avatar

Kidding, I actually did read it and it was an interesting read. So true about kids today and future generations not getting the full experience. I still remember buying my first Cassette (Oasis - Be Here Now), CD (Machine Head - The Burning Red) and Vinyl (Jimmy Eat World - Futures) and sitting down and listening to them while reading any artwork or booklets. I still listened to other CDs and vinyl records before that but the 3 albums/formats mentioned above were my "firsts" and I'll always remember them. These days it's all digital files and I don't like it at all. There's no experience there. If you ask a kid what his/her first digital album purchase was, 10 years from now, they won't be able to tell you. Kids these days seem almost unappreciative of music, it's sad!
02:59 PM on 10/04/12
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The only thing that will change is that more people will view music as an accessory, as a trendy and meaningless item to wave around so that they feel included in a certain group of people. The spread of technology and the ease of access for which music is now both obtained and created has contributed to this, and it isn't slowing down anytime soon.

There will always be a core of enthusiasts and artists who appreciate music in a more pure form, but as for the masses, they'll continue to suck down whatever they're told to in the fastest and cheapest way possible. I'm not really sure there's a way to change that, so i feel that the people who genuinely appreciate physical formats need to do what they can to help spread that sentiment.
03:05 PM on 10/04/12
saved latin. What did you ever do?
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bladerdude360's Avatar
I posted that cnet article about "Who Owns Your Music After You Die" in that thread. Glad to see that someone actually read it (assuming that's where you saw it, since it was originally posted about a month ago)! Interesting topic to think about for sure.
03:10 PM on 10/04/12
Erik the Orange
What do they know about friends?
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This is great. Thanks for keeping long-form writing alive on AP, Thomas.
03:14 PM on 10/04/12
Thomas Nassiff
retired staff member
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This is great. Thanks for keeping long-form writing alive on AP, Thomas.
long live journalism or something that's kind of like journalism!
04:14 PM on 10/04/12
Jena ≈ Gina.
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Jenajena's Avatar
I really love CDs. I've been buying all of my favorite artists' albums physically since middle school when my best friend bought me Panic's first album. I appreciate them not only for the music, but for the visual art as well. My collection is one of my favorite pieces of art in my room, displayed on this really cool diamond shaped CD shelf. I'm only 19 and most people I know don't buy them. I love getting a preorder in the mail or picking up albums at a show. And don't even get me started on how much I love lyric books.

Happy birthday, CD.
04:43 PM on 10/04/12
they all got boyfriends anyway
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trojanick's Avatar
Kinda was expecting a $5 credit in here...
05:37 PM on 10/04/12
Yeezus season approaching.
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daftpunker45's Avatar
Very good read. Agree with music has become more of an accessory than a real product to some. That disappoints me.
05:41 PM on 10/04/12
Registered Pokémon Trainer
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cherrycokewhore's Avatar
Fuck yeah, happy birthday CD.

I will never forget begging my mom to take me to the store to buy the The Cranberries' CD with Zombie on it, then she picking it up for me... And got me the wrong one. :( However, To the Faithful Departed was an eye opening record for me and forever changed the way I look at music. Going back to cassettes was not an option after your first CD. Until the average digital download can get better fidelity (24bit FLAC is rare), CD or LP are still the way to go.
05:29 AM on 10/05/12
Occasionally a fan girl
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kismet's Avatar
This was a very interesting read. As much as I love using Spotify or my iPod to listen to music, I still love getting a CD of an album I truly love. I take pride in my small collection of my favorite albums and listening to a physical CD for the very first time is my favorite thing.
06:58 AM on 10/05/12
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I think that you have to take the good with the bad. I imagine if there were internet message boards when the cassette tape's time was coming to an end, people would have said that no one is going to appreciate music anymore because you could just skip songs with the touch of a button. I like having a band's entire catalog of music. MP3s have made that possible without having to break the bank. I used to spend tons of money on bootlegs and import singles just to get songs that were never officially released and now I don't have to do that. I was able to download the unreleased demos and b-sides originally from places like napster and audiogalaxy, and now from mediafire and the like. I still purchase all the new releases from my favorite bands, some on CD, some not on CD. It all goes into itunes either way. The difference in Torrents and the download credit that the writer was saying is useless is that the artists still get compensated. Someone is paying for that promotional credit just like a company pays when you use a coupon to make a purchase.

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