Recently I was watching an interview with Billie Eilish where they asked her what the first CD she had ever purchased was. She said that she didn’t think she’s ever purchased one, and I instantly understood how my parents feel when they say I make them feel old. It hit me that there is an entire generation of kids right now who, like Eilish, are growing up experiencing music completely differently than I did. There are only seven years between us but it feels like a whole other world. With streaming services now the new norm, I wondered if I’m the only weirdo left who still loves buying physical CDs?
I, at 25 years young, grew up just as the last bit of soil was being thrown onto the grave of cassette tapes. Up until I was 20, my car still had a tape player in it. I don’t remember my first CD, but I do remember my first tapes were “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s self-titled album. I know……don’t judge me. (In my defense, I had an older sister that I was trying to emulate.)
Don’t get me wrong, streaming services have a special place in my heart and a lot of advantages. Last month I tried cancelling my Spotify Premium to save some money. That lasted about a week before I caved and signed up again.
According to an article by Andrew Nusca in the November 2019 issue of “Fortune”, I’m not the only one that needs their paid streaming. Nusca reports that Spotify has around 108 million paid subscribers around the globe. He also stated that paid and ad-supported streaming now make up around half of all global recorded music revenue. Physical CD and record sales are still hanging in there at around 25 percent.
One of the biggest advantages to streaming services is the massive library available to us instantly. I have found a lot of new artists through Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. I can listen to a variety of artists in one sitting without having to change out CDs which is amazing. I love that I can listen to any song I want within seconds and then move on to something else by a different artist. If there’s only one or two songs that I like off an album I can listen to those few without having to get an entire CD. Some streaming services have begun to offer exclusive content that you can’t get on a CD, such as playlist videos on Spotify.
Streaming definitely offers more convenience than CDs. I learned this the hard way last week on the freeway when one of my Billie Eilish CDs went flying out of my butterfingers and landed out of reach on the floor of my car. This resulted in a few curse words and me having to watch the placement of my left foot for the rest of the drive, so I didn’t end up turning the CD into confetti. There is no worrying about scratches or damaged cases with streaming services. So yes, I will admit that streaming is almost always more convenient. When I’m at work, cooking, cleaning, driving, and even while writing this piece, streaming is just easier.
With all the advantages of streaming services, people look at me funny when I say I still buy physical CDs. My coworker and I were talking yesterday, and she said her new car doesn’t even have a CD player. She went back to the dealership thinking she got ripped off and they told her that they don’t put CD players in their new models. Remember when Hot Topic’s slogan was “All About the Music”? Well their website currently only has three CDs available for sale. Three! My local Hot Topic removed their CD rack a few years and said we could only buy them online.
One reason I still buy hard copies is that many artists have been very vocal about the lack of revenue they receive from streaming (flash back to 2014 when Taylor Swift pulled her entire back catalog from Spotify).
The biggest reason though is that I think the CD artwork is a huge part of what makes an album. I love getting a CD and flipping through the booklet, reading the lyrics, looking at the artwork inside and out. All these things are an extension of the music and another way of the artist expressing themselves. A lot of time and creativity go into every inch of the CD and I think it often goes underappreciated. One of my favorite albums is “21st Century Liability” by Yungblud because not only is the music mind blowing, but the CD booklet has copies of his handwritten lyrics. It has all his scribbles, drawings, and crossed out ideas that didn’t make the cut. I absolutely love it. It feels so raw, and there is something about seeing his thought process that just makes me feel more connected to the music. You can’t see all of that with a streaming service. (I posted a few of my favorite CDs below so you can see what I’m talking about.) My coworker said she remembers back before streaming services when an artist would put a surprise track at the end that wasn’t listed and how excited people would get. Now everything is right there listed online. There was always something so exciting about getting a new CD and getting to rip it open to see what the inside and the booklet looked like. I love that surprise.
Frankly, sometimes technology is simply just a pain in the ass! As I was sitting down to write this piece my app was glitching out and the songs were stopping every few seconds. I went on a trip recently where our cell service completely cut out and our streaming went dead for a chunk of the drive. Out came the CDs! Plus, no annoying ads! My car doesn’t have the option to connect to Bluetooth like most newer cars do, so in order to stream from my phone I need to have an adapter. It drains my phone battery quickly so then I need to have my phone plugged in. Next thing I know my car looks like a medical experiment with all these wires everywhere. There is something wonderfully simple about popping in a CD and just letting it run.
So, as long as they are around, I will still be the proud weirdo buying physical CDs. Streaming services have become a necessary evil, but at the end of the day CDs will always have my heart.
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