Why I Buy CDs

Ian Beabout, Contributing Writer

No, that’s not a typo. While Youtube, Spotify, and Soundcloud are a few of the ways I  can instantly enjoy music via the internet, not to mention the 100s of illegal options out there, I long for the experience of actually owning my music. 

I have been a music fan for as long as I can remember.  I saw my first rock concert – Jethro Tull – at the tender age of three, and have obsessed over the power of music ever since.  Music gets under your skin.  It can bring feelings of joy in times of sadness, it can bring an extra kick of energy when you need it, and a sad song can often tell your story better than you. 

Growing up I lived for the trips to the  record store; where I made some of my greatest discoveries and met like minded people.  I still remember coming home from a store clutching several CDs in hand and a wish list full of further recommendations. When the internet became a greater force in our lives and record stores began to disappear social media stepped in.  Thanks to this greater sense of connectivity I now can meet like minded music freaks on music forums from Myspace and later Facebook who made recommendations based on mutual interests. 

From these recommendations came not only a sense of community, but the thrill of discovery.  When I purchase a new C, I look forward to coming home to that prize in the mailbox every day, and am crushed when it’s delivery is delayed.  When it does arrive the thrill of opening the packaging is like Christmas day to me and the experience of putting my new CD on, and preparing myself for an in-depth listen, is how I came to discover some of my all-time favorite recordings.

The advent of the internet has undoubtedly been both a blessing and a curse.  With the connectivity new music is being put on the internet and shared every day.  This gives the artists a greater chance of exposure, but it also leads to music piracy.  Music piracy is when you download music and don’t pay for it or give music to someone else without paying it.  Let’s face it – it’s easy to pirate music and almost everyone does it. 

Many articles have been written about music piracy and I strongly oppose this illegal activity.  Music piracy has led to the decline of the music business as a whole, including the CD.  When you pirate an artist’s work it’s like being refused a paycheck for a week’s worth of work, though artists spend much longer than a week on any given song or album.  Due to this artists are losing money on CD sales, and concert and merchandise prices are going through the roof.  And if you think Spotify is okay, artists receive about a fraction of a cent worth of royalties per play, just ask Taylor Swift. Ever wonder why it costs $75 for a ticket and $35 for a t-shirt at a show these days?  This is why. 

One curious side effect of the decline of the CD sales is the increase of vinyl LP sales.  I don’t personally get it; LP’s are bulky and unreliable.  The statement by some ‘audiophiles’ – people who claim to strive for the best sound quality possible – is that vinyl sounds warmer and more ‘real’ than digital.  I can see where these advocates are coming from, but I simply can’t get passed the irritating pops and clicks and even more alarmingly. The degradation of the sound toward the center of the LP, the closer the needle gets to the center of the record, the closer the grooves are and the more distorted the sound gets.  That aside 8.3 million LPs were sold last year making them the best selling physical format at this point in time.  I may not understand the love for this format but obviously I’m not the only one who appreciates the ritual and ownership of music.

I’m not saying there isn’t a use for streaming services such as Youtube, Soundcloud, and Spotify.  Oftentimes these are a tremendous resource for discovering music. Try before you buy.  To me this is no different than going into a record store, putting on headphones, and demoing a CD before purchase.  I have accounts on Youtube, Soundcloud, and Spotify and I have used them for this purpose.

You can also easily purchase downloads, which I am not opposed to, via sites such as iTunes, CDBaby, and Bandcamp.  This is an excellent resource as a lot of independent acts don’t have the money to make CDs or press vinyl, and I have bought some great music this way.  The one aspect of this that I don’t like is the lack of ownership.  I like physical media because it takes up space in my life and becomes a part of a treasured collection.  Like a book enthusiast enjoys the smell of the printed page and the access to a vast library, I enjoy being able to walk into my room, pick a title off of my shelf, and dive in to the experience.