Saturday, January 16, 2010

MUSIC: Question From FormSpring.Me - If you could only listen to one song for the next month, which would it be?

If you could only listen to one song for the next month, which would it be?

I actually don't think I could do that. It would drive me nuts. I listen to my 120 gig iPod on shuffle constantly. I'd rather just not listen to music that month!

But if I had to choose a song, right now at this moment I'm really into "Bad Dream" by Violent Femmes. I'd probably hate it - or any song - if I had to listen to it over and over again for a month!

Ask me anything

Sunday, January 10, 2010

MUSIC: R.I.P. The Compact Disc, 1982-2008?

I found this piece on NPR's All Songs Considered blog. It was my NetVibes page that led me to it.

Actually this piece on the death of cd's reminds me of vinyl's demise.

And yes, I know there are still fanatics making and buying vinyl records!

But back in high school, I had read about this format that was suppose to replace vinyl records from a magazine I saw in my electronics class. And the more I read about it, the more I started slobbering, and couldn't wait for these compact discs things.

I knew they were going to be big! And I still don't know why I didn't buy any stock in compact discs companies!

Apparently, there were some kinks to be worked out, because cd's didn't come out until I was graduating from college. So maybe it was just as well I didn't invest in any companies. I'd have probably invested in the wrong company!

Well, I missed the big change of vinyl to cd's, because I joined Peace Corps and went over to Africa. But I kept hearing how fast vinyl was dying. - OlderMusicGeek

R.I.P. The Compact Disc, 1982-2008?
by Robin Hilton

I recently came to work with two large tote bags filled with compact discs and dumped them out on a table in the middle of the office. To me, they were garbage. But for the vultures that are my fellow NPR Music producers, it was like finding a mountain of free money. They shuffled through the pile, grabbing everything that caught their eye. At one point, Stephen Thompson held up my discarded copy of Radiohead's OK Computer and incredulously asked, "Why would you get rid of this?"

For about a year now, I've been slowly purging my once-proud CD collection. Twenty-five years' worth of music, from the first disc I ever bought (Pink Floyd's The Wall) in 1984, to more recent releases.

Of course, I'm not really getting rid of them. I'm ripping everything to a massive hard drive hooked up to what has become my stereo: my computer.

This is partly because I don't like having a house overrun with thousands of CDs. Invisible sound files on a hard drive are simply more convenient. You can also do a lot more with digital files and iTunes, like delivering an endless stream of music through the house in any conceivable configuration, by artist, genre, or favorite playlists. Changing out a CD in a player feels as clunky and outdated as flipping a record on a turntable.

But I'm also purging my CDs because I believe they're a dying format. There's never been a more obvious trend. CD sales continue to plummet at a breathless -- and, if you're one of the big labels, alarming -- rate. Meanwhile, digital download sales continue to climb.

None of this is as sexy as having a tangible package of music, with artwork and liner notes. And downloading files isn't nearly as cozy as flipping through the local bands section of a record store. But the truth is, I never listen to actual CDs more than once or twice. After that, they're ripped to my computer -- I put the discs away and never look at them again.

Lately, I've felt a sense of urgency to get rid of the rest of my old CDs before they become as obsolete as 8-track tapes and cassettes.

So, what does your CD collection look like? Is it getting smaller? Do you even buy actual CDs now, or do you just download everything?

11:38 AM ET 04-14-2008 permalink

Some of the more interesting comments...

I did the download thing for a while, but decided that nothing beats having those lovely liner notes, in that clear plastic case, and that CD that you can pop into your hi-fi - with no loss in sound quality, and no annoying DRM to hack around. So I'm back to the ol' physical copies, either from a record store or an online outlet.

Yes - it's even worth the shrink wrap, IMHO.

Sent by Tim 2:25 PM ET 04-14-2008

My house sound system is wired to my computer and iPods go everywhere. I mainly purchase downloadable copies. I only by CDs if it is an album that can't be downloaded, but it is quickly ripped and discarded.

I do have about 600 vinyl records left.

Sent by Wayne 2:37 PM ET 04-14-2008

I hear what you are saying, Robin, but I take the opposite view. Despite having a large collection that takes up space, I like having cds. Similarly, I like having books on my shelf. Both books and cds are nice to look at for me, and each item has memories. To be sure, I rip the albums on my ipod, but just because I like having my collection when I'm out an about. Then again, I also make time to listen to an album every night before I go to bed. It is a great way for me to relax and decompress from a long day. I just sit on my sofa with a cup of coffee and magazine or a book while the music plays for about an hour.

That's great, Pablo. Bob was just asking me whether I ever just sat and listened to an album all the way through and did nothing else. I still do it, but not very often.

Sent by Pablo 2:51 PM ET 04-14-2008

I think Pablo makes a great point in comparing CD's to books, but like others have been saying, it's really all about vinyl records. Sure I have loads of music on my computer and iPod (as Pablo said, for convenience), but my "collection" is split between CD's and vinyl (mostly because promoters only send CD's nowadays), and I'll proudly display them on my shelf as long as I still enjoy listening to music.

To me, it's owning the actual "thing" that someone put countless hours of hard work into, and not just having a few sound files on my computer. That's what makes vinyl so nice, it's like having a book. The sound exists on the record, like words in a book; the grooves in the album are the real sound waves, just like the fading ink in my dad's copy of Time And Again (on loan to me for 20 years now) is real ink.

Call it "emotional" or "romantic" but isn't that what real music collectors seek? Isn't that the whole point of still going to record stores, sifting through boxes of unorganized singles?

I do 90% of my listening from my iPod and computer, but when it comes to "owning" music, I have to have it on my shelf, where I can look at it and say "yes, I own that music."

Sent by John Michael Cassetta 3:39 PM ET 04-14-2008

I am only 19 years old but I live in the flat that has shelves with old Beatles and other LPs that were mostly sent from family friends in Sweden (I am from Slovakia and during communism it was almost impossible to simply buy music). We also have shelves of old cassettes with music like Nirvana, Depeche Mode or Cure that belong to my older siblings. And I represent the generation in my family with a shelf of very few CDs.

Though there is something magical about CDs, I guess that my kids won't have any shelf with music. Probably they'll stack three ipods on the shelf and that's the end of it. :) And I like this change :)

The best thing about music downloads is that the artist no longer has to invest so much money into releasing the CD. Thus new great music is produced as an open source every day. Therefore my CD collection is increasingly getting smaller but my music collection has never been so rich and I am just in the beginning of quest for great music.

Sent by Lenka Bliss 4:57 PM ET 04-14-2008

The thing that scares me about the death of the CD and is that with it dies the Album, and in the end, the ability to truly appreciate an artist in all of its subtle detail. There's a whole generation of people who are going to be used to the idea of single song downloads, who find value in three minute pop escapism instead of the art and the artist.

My fear is that this will lead to smaller fanbases, which means less concert attendance, which in turn is going to make it way harder to make a career out of being a musician.

Or maybe I'm just a fatalist and really like the idea of a physical product.

Sent by David W. 5:53 PM ET 04-14-2008

I always buy the CD, and then put it on my computer. Have you ever been screwed by itunes from reformating your computer and losing your albums? Plus, I like the tactile response that CDs bring, a complete package, a solid album. I-tunes just is so seamless (ack). Even though cds might be a dying media, I love my trinquets!

p.s. Robin/Bob, you should analyze some of the coming festivals based on artist composition. With all these festivals springing up, it looks like long time acts like ACL are having problems figuring out who to book to meet their target audience.

p.p.s. Throwing away OK Computer . . . you should shame yourself.

Sent by hobbesgallo 10:02 AM ET 04-15-2008

well, what can i say?

even in the vinyl days, i made over 20 mixed tapes just for myself.

and in the early days of cd's, i made a few of mixed cd's myself.

but with shuffle and a 30 gig mp3 player - i slobber over getitng a 80 gig one - plus a one tetrabyte external drive, i love my mp3's!

i miss the tactile of the big vinyl record, but i love the experience of not knowing which song or genre will be coming next. could it be could it be a luther wright and the wrongs' bluegrass version of a tune from the wall, some old cajun from clifton chenier, some weird bit from ken nordine, some classic punk from the pistols or the clash, some some south african pop music i picked up when i lived next door to south africa in the 90's, some new electronica, a pop song i picked up from my tween daughter? who knows? and that's the thrill!

Sent by OlderMusicGeek 1:28 PM ET 04-15-2008

Yes, I'm pretty much in the download camp. And it worries me. With so much music at my fingertips, I no longer listen to one album/cd over-and-over-and-over. I no longer sit through songs I don't initially appreciate but later come to love after continued listens. I no longer have every layer and turn in my head.

So many of what we agree to be the greatest albums required a commited courtship. Would Pink Floyd have created the art they did in today's digital, single based environment? Would "Pet Sounds" or "Sgt Pepper" or even "Joshua Tree" had the impact and significance they did? Would we even know about "Kind of Blue?"

I'm definately living my music life via the MP3 file, but I know I've given up a lot in doing so.

Sent by Jeffrey Mason 2:46 PM ET 04-16-2008

So, I have a collection of tapes, cds, and records, and they probably constitute less than twenty-five percent of my listening time. I knew cds were out when I took a long plane ride and brought a rug weaver size spool of cds that i was trying to sort through on the plane and the kid next to me was whipping through his I-Pod while I dropped burned cds on the floor. That said, this post reminds me of the non-problematic post http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/03/30/93-music-piracy/
and I guess the real question for me is kind of like Bob's post about the future of music formats, what's the future record/music store look like? I mean online stuff is okay, but I agree that there's something special about a record store and the conversations/sharing that take place person-to-person, that I don't see recreated in online music blogs, magazines, etc.

Sent by zach 8:15 PM ET 04-16-2008

OlderMusicGeek here. *waves at my, ahem, many readers, all 4 of them!*

Funny enough, I remember having a conversation with a co-worker when cd's had reached their 20th anniversary.

The co-worker was wondering what would replace cd's. I told him nothing.

"Nothing?! What do you mean nothing?!"

I explained how there wouldn't cd's or vinyl records are anything. We would just download our music onto the player.

He thought I was crazy!

Interesting enough, the next post of the All Songs Considered blog asks reader what they want in the next music format.

And there are some good ideas - such as adding a visual element and making them more social.

But the best idea is having the lyrics available and a list of who did what on the song! That is something I can't wait for!

To the future!!

A link to the original piece on NPR's All Songs Considered's website
A link to All Songs Considered

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This is a fairly good sampling of some of the music I listen to. It's missing a few genres I like - such as cajun. I'll work on that later. But it does contain most of my favorite artists. I tried to steer away from the better known songs to give you a better idea of what kind of music the artists play, but I was limited by the songs the website - Project Playlist - had available. But if you want to get an idea of what I listen to, just hit the play or arrow button. - OlderMusicGeek

The internet station that does the best of playing my music is Last.fm. Here's my station if you're interested.

This website, OlderMusicGeek Radio on Pandora.com, does a fairly decent job of playing what I like, although they do occasionally play stuff I don't care for, but overall they're pretty good.