CDs are Albums
I was surprised the other day when I actually heard a musician repeat the same talking points I have heard from less musically educated people. He said that CDs are nothing more than a scam the [evil] record labels use to make you buy songs you don’t like. He repeated the words almost verbatim saying that the labels never put more than one good song on a CD so they can squeeze every penny out of the consumer that they can.
Personally, I disagree with his opinion. Most of my favorite CDs are something much more than a collection of songs. To me, buying just my favorite song as an MP3 download is sort of like choosing only to eat the icing on the cake and snubbing the rest of an entire four course meal. My favorite CDs are complete compositions in and of themselves and I couldn’t imagine separating the songs like that.
How would you like to watch only the best five minutes of your favorite movie?
How would you like to watch only the best part of Super Bowl?
How would you like to read only the best chapter in a book?
None of that makes sense, does it?
Before we had CDs we had LPs. Another word we used more commonly than LP was “album.” My understanding is that the reason they were called albums was because back when the old 78s could only fit one song per side per disk, they used to be sold as a set. Several 78s in one set were called “albums” – very similar to the way we used to keep photo albums before the digital age of photography. When the long play (which I think is where LP comes from) records hit the market and several songs could be recorded to each side, the name “album” stuck and some of us older folk still call CDs “albums” today.
To me, a good CD has a theme and tells a story. A good CD is not, by any means, just a collection of songs. Each song on a good CD is like a movement of a symphony or an act in a play. To butcher that CD into unrelated pieces just doesn’t make any sense to me.
The Demise of CDs?
When my musician friend said what he did, it was in the context of CDs becoming obsolete. He thinks the end is right around the corner and “good riddance” as far as he’s concerned. But if this ever does happen and people completely stop listening to CDs, so much of the art of modern music will have been lost. It’s a shortsighted view but unfortunately it is a very popular one. He may be right and the CD may be on its way out. But when that happens, it will have an impact on the music industry that will be far, far worse than anything they dreaded to happen in the 80’s when MIDI was first introduced. When our art is reduced to nothing more than individual MP3s, we will have lost our connection to the audience at that point.
There are other reasons to resist the demise of CDs. One of my biggest complaints about the MP3s is that there isn’t any information about the musicians or the music itself. You can’t know who’s in the band, or what the music is about. You can’t learn anything about where the group recorded or what equipment they used. All of that is lost. One of my favorite aspects of a CD is the liner notes and the graphics. If I buy just the MP3, I”m only getting a fraction of what I used to get with the CDs.
I guess it might be different for people who listen to popular music. All of the music I listen to is basically art-music; classical, jazz and stuff like that. So I guess people don’t realize what they are saying when they express their displeasure with CDs, hoping that the CD will just go away. They don’t realize that they are wishing for the end of an American art form.
I’ve been thinking about his more often lately because we are about to release our first CD (album). Vintage Trumpet Treasures is a themed work. All of the recordings fit together into one complete unit, which is complimented by the pictures, graphics and text on the cover. We are even opting for the nicest packaging in order to make it consistent with the theme. If someone just downloads the MP3s (which we will be selling at our store sometime in the Summer), I’m fine with that. They get what they pay for. But I feel as if they are missing out on something much more than just the sum of its parts when they only buy the MP3s. They miss out on the full experience of what the CD is supposed to communicate.
We learn, we adapt and regardless of what the future holds, things are going to work out. I guess for me, I want to use this medium as much as I can to express myself before it does become obsolete.