Since after Christmas, 2006, I have not purchased a single compact disc recording (even though, as a critic, I’ve received a dozen or so for reviews), but I have spent more than $70.00 purchasing recordings from iTunes and putting them on my iPod. I have also ripped almost my entire CD library and put it on iTunes, too. All my CDs, some unspeakable amount, were either given to or sold to my co-workers (don’t worry, they found nice homes), or sold for an absolute minimal profit to one of the used CD stores in town. The only CDs I now own are from Louisville performers I’ve reviewed or written about, or they are ones for which I have a deep sentimental attachment (like my CD copy of Silk Degrees, my box set Citizen Steely Dan, and the 30th Anniversary Edition of The Beatles “White Album”).
I’ve gone body and soul into the “i” world. And I’m loving it. My wife has done the same thing, too. We don’t have CDs taking up room, we don’t have to make sure the right disc is in the right case, there’s no flipping or sorting through a stack of square plastic to find a certain recording. My entire collection is now encased in a flat black rectangle, fed from what’s stored on my laptop’s hard drive. Every recording I owned and purchased from iTunes is backed off onto eight DVDs. I can carry my entire library with me.
I’m not going to say that the CD is a dead medium for distributing music, but I think it’s at least feeling a little wobbly in the legs. We have been edging into a time when major labels and distributors no longer control the flow of music. Stuff will be going directly from the artists to the consumers. And all the RIAA can do is flail about and file horseshit infringement suits against college students (still) and normal folks for illegally downloading songs.
The RIAA and the industry it represents are feeling the first licks from obscurity. And they’re scared.
Too bad. They were dozing comfortably in the Complacency Lounge during most of the 1990s. The Internet poked its head in, tried to get the industry’s attention. Some independent artists saw it was a good thing and signed on immediately. Once the found out that peer-to-peer sharing was not something done in a filthy men’s room, they went into battle mode.
This whole thing of getting music directly to the consumers through the Internet and using computers and tiny music players as the medium of choice will be what saves an industry that still thinks we really, really want to listen to an entire CD of vapid songs and pay fifteen bucks for it.
Yes, there are still some economic issues surrounding this change. Not everyone has a broadband connection for downloading. Not everyone has a computer. Not everyone can plunk down more than 200 bucks for a tiny music player. But how many can even afford to plunk down 15 bucks for a CD containing one or two songs they’ll actually enjoy?
I’ll put it this way: Shawn Fanning and Steve Jobs have done more for this industry in the last decade than anyone has done since the days of wax cylinders. And they weren’t in any way associated with the industry.
As for me, I’ve got an iPod to update with a new download: Meet the Smithereens.
UPDATE: Thanks to Leslie for pointing out that Christmas, 2007 is nine months away. So I’ve made a change to the first line.