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Another Spin
A blog by Scott E. Shepherd · A continuing look at popular music, past, present and future.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

CDs vs. MP3s

Recently I wrote about my most essential albums; what CDs I would first replace if all my music suddenly disappeared. One response I got brought up an interesting point; with the capabilities of downloading individual songs from iTunes and others; are albums really necessary anymore?
 
The ability to download individual songs from albums has been both the greatest boon and largest detriment to the music world. While all sorts of "singles" can now be created, albums on the whole can now be ignored. Indeed, what is the point of an artist releasing an "album" or CD if his or her listeners are going to select certain songs and discard the rest? Ideally the songs on an album compliment each other and flow together to create an over all experience, and certainly some artists are better at this than others. But with the creation of the MP3 file, listeners can now create their own albums and personalize their music even more. So does the artists' original intent (and by virtue, the CD as a format) become obsolete?
 
I admit that there are very few albums that I like all the way through. Often I've complained of (especially newer artists') CDs that seem go on for one or two too many songs, and wish it had been paired down or varied up a bit more. And who hasn't had a "greatest hits" package that had all that artist's best songs, save the one you really, really liked? And everyone's bought a CD or album because they really liked one song, and the rest turned out to be garbage.
 
Yet, the idea of songs existing purely as a computer file is somewhat uncomfortable to me (and yes, I'm a bit of a technophobe); your computer crashes and *poof!* no more music! And while you can burn your own CD and even create your own label and artwork for that CD, the concept still bears the stigma of the horrible "home mix" tapes that were so popular in the 80's.
 
My CD collection is vast and continues to grow and I worry that I have too much; but I still like the concept of the professionally made, professionally recorded CD. Perhaps it's the physical presence of the CD, the booklet with all the musical information that comes with a professionally produced CD that keeps me holding on to this format. I'm sure one day my kids will look at my CDs the way kids today look at their parents' LP records; relics from a bygone era.
 
With "playlists" and iPods and other portable MP3 players, has the CD already become obsolete?

Posted at 5:17 pm ET