Compact disc

It’s time to stop worrying and loving the compact disc | Characteristics

There is an elephant in the modern music hall.

When the BPI has released its final figures for 2016, commentators immediately grabbed some tropes, some recurring patterns. Vinyl was back, they said – accounting for some 3.2 million album sales. The download was complete, it followed, streaming becoming the de facto way to listen to music in the digital environment.

Yet despite 47 million albums sold, the compact disc was rarely – if ever – mentioned. Sure, the humble CD may have been down 11% year on year, but let’s put it this way: despite hardly any media attention, despite the surpassing of technology, despite the fact that record stores remain hot spots. the gap, the compact disc increased by 47 million in sales. It’s almost one per person in all of England, you know. It’s a lot of music that nobody talks about.

Of course, there are very good reasons for both sides of this. First, the compact disc itself is an excellent format by nature. It’s small enough to fit in your hand – depending on whether you have long fingers – but big enough to feel concrete, to reflect the fetish of the physical object.

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Launched in 1982, it became the workhorse of the music industry as labels reached their commercial heyday. Vinyl was phased out, the cassette never quite became the format it promised, and the era of the compact disc heralded unsuspected benefits – in 1998 the labeling system reached its titanic heyday, its absolute zenith. He has climbed an all-time high in compact discs.

This flood of money also allowed artists to try new things with the format. Pearl Jam’s 1994 version, “Vitalogy,” echoed an 1899 medical textbook, merging images and text with outdated treatises on the nature of life. Eddie Vedder, in fact, was so attached to the idea that an extra 50 cents of the album chord was taken out of the band’s end for that to happen.

On the other side of the Atlantic too, great minds were at work. Spiritualized space-rock gospel giant work “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” – 20 years old this year – was presented in lavish packaging that echoed the addictions that plagued the creative force J Spaceman. Comprising 12 blistered discs, one for each song, the presentation even included bogus medicinal advice on their use and a proscribed dosage.

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But that’s not all. The CD could be used to “hide” certain tracks, thus creating wonderful hidden treats for the fans. Nirvana smuggled “Endless, Nameless” onto “Nevermind,” while even The Stone Roses, vastly over-exaggerated and absurdly over-exaggerated, “Second Coming” found room for a hidden cut (as if this album needed even more ballast to weigh it down …)

It couldn’t go on. With profits are pouring in, the music industry has focused its attention on increasing those numbers, with CD prices exploding – searching the shelves of charity stores is now almost like scrutinizing an alien world, with retailers since gone. long such as Our Price demanding £ 14.99 or more for Kula Shaker albums. No wonder the roof is collapsing.

Napster was launched in 1999, bringing the 90s music industry to an end in one fell swoop. Profits plummeted, panic set in, and a host of entertainment companies struggled, and often failed completely, to adapt. The CD, however, went through it all – before streaming became viable, before iTunes became the norm, it was sometimes the only thing that kept the music industry afloat, like wings of the world. water on a particularly nervous toddler who has somehow made his way to the deep end of the pool.

Perhaps this is why the compact disc is so unloved. Totemic object of manipulation of the music industry, it has also had the misfortune of holding on, of holding on. Vinyl was almost entirely gone, becoming the occupation of hoarders and record enthusiasts before its resurgence took hold in 2007. Cassette also fell dramatically, with Sony halting production of its iconic Walkman player in 2010.

The compact disc, however, is still there, always bringing results. Sold everywhere, from niche record stores to Sainsburys, it’s ring at cash registers across the country – even with an 11% drop, 47 million units in 12 months is a massive figure.

And it’s also a key part of the underground. CD-Rs are easy to break, which means that some facets of the indie electronic, noise, and DIY scenes are CD-based. It doesn’t take much to make the presentation special, and it’s almost always worth it – take a look at this foldable cardboard sleeve from the Scottish group PAWS:

So maybe it’s time to stop worrying and loving the compact disc. After all, vinyl has a plethora of think pieces written in her honor, while cassettes even have an entire day devoted to their dedication. The CD is the old friend that’s always been there, but you never get to call. He’s the solid 7/10 player who never quite gets the ball of the game. He’s small, he makes cute rainbow shapes in the sun, and if you press pause and then rewind for 30 seconds, he can spit out a previously hidden cut.

Of course, they won’t play if you smear them with jam… but then why would you want to do it? Compact discs are great the way they are.

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