DEATH OF THE COMPACT DISC: ARE THE RUMOURS EXAGGERATED?

The decline of the compact disc has been well-chronicled, and its absolute demise predicted (there is an interesting article in The Guardian of 28 May 2015 – Dorian Lynskey, ‘How the compact disc lost its shine’ – www.theguardian.com/music/2015/may/28/how-the-compact-disc-lost-its-shine). The medium which triumphed over vinyl and cassette has now all but surrendered, first to mp3 downloads and now to streaming.

However, pockets of resistance remain. The CD is fast disappearing from high-street outlets, but is still available by mail order from the likes of Amazon. When moving house recently I realised I needed dedicated housing for my CD collection. This I duly ordered from a furniture chain, only to be advised at the last minute that ‘we don’t sell CD supports any more’. However, a copy of BBC Music magazine threw up the address of a firm in Yorkshire, England, from whom I ordered a handmade mahogany rotating CD tower, now duly delivered and installed. There are ways …

The Mp3 download as a model has much to be said for it. It enables a more organised music collection, by genre and artist, than CDs ever could. Mp3s take up minimal space: today’s technology can house all of Bach’s cantatas on a single USB stick. They also share with CDs the advantage over streaming that one can actually own the music, instead of visiting a collectivist cloud.

However, music in digital form, whether as track, album or collection, lacks the physical presence of a disc seen and grasped as a palpable object. A CD, to those who still know what they are, is surely a more attractive present or souvenir than a computer file: some musicians still sell their discs at concerts. Of those of us who have amassed CD collections over the years, some at least will not wish to abandon them for a digital-only utopia: as it rotates, my mahogany tower whispers to me that not all is over …

 

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