For the current generation, CD’s have been a major source of music-discovery. First released in 1982, CD’s sat in the throne of primary distribution for decades. Whether you popped one into your stereo at home and danced around the house while your parents weren’t home or played one in your CD player in the backseat while constructing a mental music video, CD’s have been a corporeal object in which to project our deepest musical love. We lined them up on our shelves, proudly boasting collections large and small because for us, owning CD’s was just as exciting as wearing a band shirt or hanging up a new poster.
But in current years, CD sales have steadily declined, being replaced by the easily accessible mp3. Instead of owning CD’s, people can now pick and choose songs. Instead of shelves of CD’s, we now have libraries of songs. To some, the convenience and prices of being able to pick and choose songs at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen are much preferred to the searching for and ordering of CDs. Instead of burning an entire mix CD for road trips, you can make a playlist in a matter of minutes. But can this ever replace the intimacy of connecting with an entire album?
For some artists, an album is less of a collection of songs and more of a story told through music. One of the more obvious examples of this is in My Chemical Romance’s musical style; former frontman Gerard Way used the band’s albums as a canvas onto which he created hauntingly beautiful storylines. These types of theatrical albums, however, can be lost in the world of mp3’s, where one is not necessarily inclined to listening to an album as a whole. While the music can reach a broader audience in this electronic form, this comes at the cost of losing a little bit of that storyline magic.
Recently Best Buy has announced that it will soon cease to sell CD’s all together with Target following close behind which marks the end of an era. Though there is much to lose from this shift towards mp3’s as the primary way in which to consume music, there is also much to gain. Mp3’s are easier to obtain, easier to organize, and nearly impossible to lose. Gone are the days of scratched CDs or broken album sleeves. New bands can promote their music online and reach a much broader audience than from passing around albums after shows. Music can be streamed instead of having to search for the specific CD with the specific song that has been stuck in your head for days.
Whether you still love admiring your own CD collection or you prefer the collection of songs in your iTunes playlist, there is no denying the way in which CD’s has impacted this generations listening habits. Because of this profound influence, CD’s may decrease in popularity, but they will still hold a special place in the memories that we have of them. The same can be said of vinyl records, which have made a huge increase in popularity in recent years. This pattern of phasing out and making a comeback could very well apply in the future to CD’s themselves as it seems that we truly learn to start to appreciate musical mediums once they are gone.