Do you remember those days when your favourite artist would release their newest album and you would rush to the music store to be one of the first to get your hands on the CD? Or that feeling of urgency that engulfed you, causing you to rip open the annoying plastic wrap with your car keys and listen to your newest purchase in the parking lot? In today’s overtly technologized generation, these feelings seem to have either faded, or worse, disappeared completely.
Now, when our favourite artists drop their new music, most of us don’t rush to HMV; instead, we rush to our computers. If we’re lucky, we can access our most sought after songs on streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music; however, if who we are seeking to listen to is against such services, like Taylor Swift for example, a little more effort or money is often needed. In these scenarios, it seems like music lovers will do just about anything but drive to the mall to pick up a cold hard copy of what they are jumping through hoops to find online. My question is, why?
The reason I was able to explain the feeling of buying a brand new CD so easily is because I still buy CDs. I’m not trying to be different with the use of my music choices, or portray myself as “hipster”; that’s not it at all. I would just rather have a physical album in my hand than a digital copy in my iTunes library, plain and simple. Artists don’t work hard so that their music can be randomly downloaded and lost in your iPhone. Yes, when you stream a song, you are listening to the music which the artist has intended for you to hear; however, you are not necessarily listening to it the way in which the artist has intended for it to be heard. A song is merely a fragment when listened to in isolation. An album on the other hand is the whole picture; it is the prefect representation of who an artist is and of what they want their fans to not only hear, but also see.
What a lot of individuals tend to forget is how many decisions actually go into creating the CDs that they are so easily neglecting for digital files. For one thing, digital streaming services give their users access to the dreaded shuffle button. I say dreaded due to the fact that the songs on an album have not been carelessly burned onto a CD, they have been placed in a specific order, in which the artist wishes for them to be heard. The shuffle button holds the power to ruin an album’s overall vibe completely. With albums such as The Sheepdogs’ Learn & Burn, Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Minds, and Daughter’s Wild Youth EP for example, something is lost if they are not listened to in the proper order. This is due to the fact that on these albums, much like many others, one track’s ending often leads into the next track’s beginning. Thus, if our digital files are not played in the proper order, which most times they are not, the story that the artist is attempting to tell gets broken along the way. An album is meant to be listened to from start to finish, just like any other art form.
Not only is the music on the physical album important, but so too is how this music is presented. By this, I mean the cover art. To me, the cover of any album, as well as the artwork that is often placed inside, is the first hint as to what I will be hearing and feeling while I listen to the actual CD. The chosen art assists an artist in completely immersing the listener into the world that they have created. Without it, another piece of the puzzle is lost and yet another part of the story is distorted. Though it may seem like a small piece, every little detail is important to the artist; thus, every little detail should be important to you.
Imagine working your whole live to achieve a certain type of sound. Wouldn’t you want your fans to hear this sound too? Buying an artist’s physical CD, or vinyl for that matter, often forces the fan to listen to their music through legitimate speakers and to hear the songs pretty close to how the artist has heard it themselves. Whether this is through the sweet sound of a record player or the speakers of a car, any of these are better than how digital files are often played. Streaming services have enabled us to listen to music through the speakers of our phones and laptops which, for the most part, tend to be poor quality. Thus, when it comes to digital files, yet another piece is lost; but not just any piece, the most important piece – the sound.
As of recent times however, it has become “cool” to own not only CDs, but also records and cassette tapes. Popular stores like Urban Outfitters have now made it possible to purchase cassettes and multiple coffee/record shops have begun to pop up throughout Toronto, including Village Vinyl and Press Books, Coffee, and Vinyl to name a few. As well, many artists now make it a point to include incentives such as commentary, behind the scenes video footage, and artwork, in order to get their fans to purchase copies of their CDs. It is things like these which therefore leave me with a sense of hope. Hope that the CD is not yet obsolete and hope that one day it will make its ultimate comeback once and for all.
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