Music Industry

An Interesting Point: Why Would Anyone Buy Another CD?

I remember the day HMV introduced shopping baskets at their 333 Yonge Street superstore.

“Thank GOD,” I thought. “I don’t have to walk around juggling all these CDs before I get to the cash.”

This was a real problem because in those days, I (and a lot of other people) would buy six, seven, eight–more!–CDs in a single shopping trip. And HMV was a great place to go because they also had the loyalty club deal where you got a free disc for every ten that you purchased.

Those days are long gone, of course.  And while I still buy CDs and vinyl, I’m buying way, WAY less than I used to.

It’s mostly because I have far too many CDs as it is.  I’m simply running out of space.  But mostly, it’s the expense.  The unnecessary expense.

Yes, I’ll buy physical product by artists I really want to support.  Yes, I’ll buy certain things because I really want to have a physical manifestation/backup of this music.  But for the most part, most of my shopping involves purchases from iTunes.  Everything else I just stream.

We’re entering a completely new era of music consumption whereby anyone can access almost any song ever recorded within seconds.  Consumers (not all of them, but a lot) already have iTunes, iTunes Radio, Pandora and a huge whack of streaming music services.  And more companies are getting into this virtual space every month.  These new virtual delivery systems, as Rush sang in “Spirit of Radio” are “bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”

This begs the question:  outside of those songs/albums you absolutely must physically own, why would you ever buy another CD?

That’s the question posed by this article in The Atlantic.  Thoughts?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38452 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

11 thoughts on “An Interesting Point: Why Would Anyone Buy Another CD?

  • The reason I buy CDs is because they are higher quality than the music on iTunes. It’s too bad since they have their own lossless format – ALAC!

    If iTunes music were CD quality, I’d buy all of it from iTunes. If a band offers their album on Bandcamp, I buy it there because it is available digitally at CD quality.

    I put up with the inconvenience of a CD purely because I’m not willing pay to degrade sound quality for minor convenience – I’m going to listen to this music for dozens of hours, I’m not going to do that in a compromised way.

    The absurdity is that the first thing I do with that CD is to rip it to iTunes (in the lossless format) to put it on my iPod. I’ve love for Apple to let me skip the middle man, but surely at this point people are so invested in iTunes that they have no business reason to up their bandwidth costs for delivering larger files that devices can store fewer of, even if they sound better.

  • While I have my own reasons, I will note that my 13 yo prefers to buy CDs because he likes the physical cover art and the book that is usually included (alas, he missed the heyday of LPs). I think he also likes the physical disc that will not suffer from a computer disk crash. Either way, he’s not a big fan of iTunes.

    Not sure whether there is a point here, except that not all young’uns have forgone physical media.

  • The only time I buy a CD now a days is when The Hip come out with something new. They have been my favourite band for years and I simply want to add to that particular collection out of habit and because I have everything else they have put out on CD. Other than that, it’s iTunes or streaming. The desire to “own” the music just is not there like it used to be when it is simply so accessible regardless. Even though I am settling for poorer quality, it seems that convenience ends up ruling at the end of the day.

    That being said, I am very interested in where the Pono thing that Neil Y is putting together will go. I was pretty blown away with the number of music greats he had on that video that was released last week and it seems to have some impact given the amount of money that it has been able to scope via Kickstarter.

  • I tend to buy vinyl on the rare occasion I do buy a new release anymore, except for Beck’s new album, because I knew it would be played in the car quite a bit.

    But the real reason to own a CD (outside of sound quality and packaging) is the simple fact that you *own* it and can do whatever you want with it for the rest of its lifespan.

    And the thrift stores are now getting choked with amazing CDs! Instead of the host of adult contemporary titles I used to find, I’m now regularly finding rare Jazz and alternative titles that would normally set me back $20 apiece. I usually pay no more than $1.99 each, and for that price I’ll happily make some room on the shelves.

  • I still do buy CD’s, although not as many & more vinyl too.
    I am a sucker for the expanded or deluxe editions – bonus discs (DVD, EP, etc.). Some with a t-shirt or stickers works for me!
    I do rip it to iTunes but also like having a copy in the car. Police don’t seem to bother with someone changing CD’s in the car as opposed to an iPod where it can be seen as distracted driving.
    I was at Best Buy this weekend and amazed how much floor space has been lost to music, in general.

  • Alan,

    I’m surprised you settle for iTunes. I could be wrong — my memory isn’t very good — but I feel like you’ve complained about the loss of quality in compressed music before.

    I personally can’t tell a difference the vast majority of the time, but tend to favour FLAC and CDs “just in case”.

    But yeah I mostly stream, and then buy vinyl from bands at live shows. CDs are reserved for the few of my all-time favourite bands that are still putting out new music.

  • I’ve actually bought a couple of VHS tapes more recently than I bought my last CD (August 2011).

  • I think those who consume music to any large degree will always have a preference. The masses of average listeners will always do what masses do when there isn’t a preference… They will take the path of least resistance, which in my eyes is digital. I buy vinyl… Why? Because it excites me to find rare pressings or things from my favorite band. I’m a minority and that is fine, but digital is how I consume a larger portion of my day to day listening. Would I buy another cd? Only if it’s for a very specific reason. I.e. I bought the new Bowie disc this year because my dock for my iPod was Broken in my car…

  • Read a lot of similarities to my own habits (must have artists, deluxe editions, iTunes one offs). In addition, I find ebay is great for those 1cent CD listings (thought hit and miss) and amazon marketplace. Dejavu discs is another good option, since I don’t have time to spend hours in used record shops like the old days.

  • I don’t buy as many CDs as I used to, but there is something I love about going to a record shop and pursuing through CDs,than going through the art etc. I will continue to buy CDs,I just wonder how much long they will produce them for!

  • Streaming and poor quality mp3 files are like ‘musak’. You’re not really into music unless you listen to vinyl, cd or high quality downloads from sites like Bandcamp and Aurovine.


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