By Zachary Swickey
I can still recall the intense anticipation I felt upon purchasing A Perfect Circle’s second album, 13th Step. I rushed back to my car, shredded the packaging open and shoved the CD into my stereo for my first official taste of the album other than the single “Weak and Powerless.” This is how things used to be, not even very long ago – if you wanted an album, you had to drive to a store, purchase it and then put it in a CD player. Oh how things have changed!
At only 25 years old, I’m already beginning to preach like an old man about how “things used to be,” but I can’t help it, considering how rapid technology has progressed. The most revolutionary thing to impact my later youth is without a doubt, the iPod. Before, I had a gargantuan case that held my prized collection of about 350 CDs (goodbye lunch money). The thing was practically luggage and I had to update and alphabetize it regularly, otherwise finding the right album was virtually impossible. When I tell my future children about vinyl, cassettes and now CDs, they’re going to be befuddled since the great majority of music is now digital without any physical object representing it. For over 50 years, music was always available in the form of a tangible product – until Steve Jobs set us free in the world of mp3.
At the end of 2005 (four years after the inception of iTunes), CD sales still accounted for 86 percent of the music market, and it appeared that iTunes would just be just another option for the consumer to purchase music, but not necessarily kill the CD. Fast-forward just five years to 2010 and things looked drastically different – at 49 percent, physical CD sales accounted for just under half of all music sales. It’s also worth noting that the popularity of iTunes has shifted the focus back on singles and individual songs rather than full albums, since the service has always been a la carte – allowing you to purchase whichever specific songs you’d like. This has made it more crucial than ever to have multiple hit songs on a record since the consumer may now opt to purchase a single song and might never even hear the full album. (Ed. Note: Sad.)
For more and to let us know if you think music is still a great gift, read on and vote in our poll.
Holidays and special occasions have been impacted by this as well. CDs used to be my go-to gift around the holidays. I personally love to shove my music taste down my friends’ ears (and proving Pandora unnecessary when you have someone like me around); however, I can’t imagine the response I would get now if I were to hand my friend a new CD for his birthday or Christmas. The impact of giving a special gal that amazing Josh Groban CD that she’s never heard (“I love it! Darling, he has the voice of an angel!”) does not have the same appeal as it once did. Sure, you can give an iTunes gift card, but that doesn’t have the same effect – “Here’s an iTunes gift card for our anniversary, but really it’s for this specific album.” Apple even reportedly toyed with the prospect of gift cards for individual albums specifically, but such plans (understandably) never came to light.
It’s sad that such a classic and often meaningful gift is slowly becoming a tradition of the past, but maybe I’ve missed the mark entirely. Perhaps there are still plenty of you out there who plan on dishing out copies of Bon Iver’s CD to all your friends for Christmas.
So let's crowd source and see. Vote in our poll below. With CDs pretty much a thing of the past for our generation, is music still a good gift?