October 2, 2012

30 And Over The Hill

Thirty years ago yesterday, the compact disc was born. Yep, I feel old now.

The first test CD that was pressed contained Richard Strauss' Eine Alpensinfonie. The first CD manufactured for public distribution was Abba's The Visitors but the first CD that actually made it to stores was 52nd Street by Billy Joel. They took a while to catch on. The first CD to sell a million copies was Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms in 1985. Probably because they were expensive. They cost $15 but, adjusted for inflation, that's about $35 today. And you had to shell out $730 for something to play them on.

There are people alive today - responsible people with important jobs - who never knew a world without CDs. They never spun vinyl 45s and pretended to be a DJ with a crappy microphone and their dad's stereo. They never wallpapered their rooms entirely in longboxes. They never absorbed every inch of text and art in a gatefold cover. They never made a mixtape for a girlfriend or boyfriend.

I remember when CDs hit the stores. The CD section in my local, often-visited Sound Warehouse was about three feet wide, loosely stocked with longboxes. The rest of the store was vinyl and cassettes. Over time there was a tectonic shift as retailers stocked CDs, abandoning vinyl then cassettes. Of course now its almost impossible to find a brick and mortar music retailer. But people are still buying CDs. They accounted for 61% of last year's music sales. Not me. I have boxes with thousands of CDs stored in the basement. My collection was digitized years ago. The only time I buy a CD is when a piece of music isn't available any other way. That's increasingly rare.

I don't really mourn for lost mediums. The music is still there. Sure, liner notes, artwork and lyrics are gone and with them some of the overall experience but for me it was always about the music.

How do you consume your music? How badly to you miss those bygone formats?

Posted by Chris at October 2, 2012 7:57 AM

The first two CDs I owned were Blizzard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon, which I bought at Tysons Mall with a gift certificate that came with the CD player I got for Christmas in 1985.

I still have the Dark Side of The Moon CD.

I'm 100% digital today, although I still listen the old way. I pick an album and listen all the way through.

Posted by: COD at October 2, 2012 9:00 AM

I actually pay for mp3s now, though in college, when Napster was king, I just downloaded illegally. Before that, though, I bought cassettes as a kid. My first CD was purchased in 1994 for my first ever Discman. I was very familiar with records though, as my dad exposed me to his large collection and I even bought records in high school for a time, because they were still readily available. I guess I miss the old formats but mostly just out of nostalgia. MP3s are so much easier.

Posted by: Claire at October 2, 2012 9:23 AM

I still make my own mix CD's, and I still have my own tapes. Anytime you want to make that mix that you promised a few years ago would be great. ;)

Posted by: alektra at October 2, 2012 9:36 AM

Slightly off-topic, but to make the younger crowd feel old -- Goosebumps turned 20 this year...

Posted by: Kaz at October 2, 2012 9:38 AM

I'm old school...I still buy CDs, especially if it is a band/artist I really like. I am tactile...I like to hold the CD/liner notes in my hand while I listen. Yes, I mostly copy them down to my iPod and that's how I listen, but I have the CDs.

I've been buying more digitally and eventually I will probably stop buying the CDs. I have a much harder time seeing myself going all electronic for Books. I LOVE the feel of a book and enjoy reading a hard copy of a book rather than reading it on the Kindle. Music is a little different.

Although, I recently dug out my record player and have played my old albums for my daughter and Wow, the sound is just so good! I might have to start buying some of my favorite music on Album (which I think is weird, that bands today are releasing their music on actual vinyl, but cool!)!

Posted by: cyndy at October 2, 2012 11:24 AM

What Cyndy said. Except I probably won't stop buying cds. I just purchased Eric Clapton's greatest hits for $5. 17 songs. Purchasing them all off iTunes would have cost me $17. I just bought another brand new cd (I don't remember - sorry) and it was $9.99. To download all of the songs would have been $14. And I wouldn't have had the liner. And I'm tactile. And a luddite.

At least when I purchase books for my Kindle, I still get to read the acknowledgments and see the pictures.

Posted by: Mindy at October 2, 2012 12:22 PM

don't the new macbook airs not even have disc drives? the CD is definitely on it's way out. but i still buy them sometimes! i mostly download, but every once in a while, i'll be in line at starbucks - and they tend to have great music - and i'll feel like buying an actual CD.
my husband has some fancy bose stereo thing but i won't even let him set it up because it looks so dumb, i told him "get me a record player and i'll be happy".
and i remember listening to my dad's reel-to-reel as a kid (and records). and of course MIX TAPES. even desperately recording off the radio after waiting hours for a song to come on just to have it (minus the first second or two of the song haha). aaah, memories!

Posted by: kati at October 2, 2012 2:12 PM

I must admit I do miss liner notes. I used to love to read them when I bought a new album. I would read them while listening to the music right away. But i will also say that digital music has given me a lot of music quickly and easily. No complaints there. I still think its cool when im looking for something a bit obscure, that i can go online and find it in a flash. Im trying to remember my first cd. I think it was Ozzy. But boy did i make a mean mixtape ;)

Posted by: Steph at October 2, 2012 3:47 PM

My Mom told me recently that she'd read they were going to stop making CDs soon. I keep thinking she must've misheard this, especially if CDs are still 61% of music sales, but I haven't gotten around to Googling this. Have you heard anything about this?

Posted by: Tracy at October 2, 2012 4:09 PM

I never had cash for records, but I miss the art and beauty of that era. My son laughs when his Dad and I discuss records, 8 track tapes and such. It is such an oddity for him. Our son only knows of CDs and Itunes, first hand.

My hubby had a huge record collection. He gave the records away and to this day, regrets it. But, we had just had our son and my hubby no longer had a turntable. The records were simply dust collectors.

We almost exclusively get our music through Itunes minus an occasional collection here and there.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at October 2, 2012 9:34 PM

Sound Warehouse...wow, haven't heard that store name in forever. Is it a national chain or just a local one? I haven't seen them out here in San Diego, but I definitely went to them when I still lived in Baltimore (and still visited music stores which was ages ago).

Posted by: shan at October 2, 2012 10:35 PM

I went from vinyl, to 8-Tracks, to cassettes, CD's, digital, and now, after all that, I find myself going back to vinyl. There's some really cool stuff some local bands are putting out on limited run vinyl, and I get to read the lyric sheets without having to squint. :)

Posted by: J at October 3, 2012 9:43 AM