Death of the compact disc

Ryan deBiase

With the release of the Apple iPod, the music industry now stares down the barrels of an undeniable shift in how music must be bought and sold. The CD LP has been declining in relevance since the advent of Napster six or seven years ago. By including artists for purchase on MP3 Web sites, execs have certainly reacted semi-appropriately, yet I know few college students who actually attain their MP3s through legal channels.

Keep in mind this writer has always been a strong proponent of supporting the artist by purchasing the LP at the nearest Record Exchange or indie music store. Yet, this writer has recently discovered the towering media stockpile of SoulSeek and its infinite possibilities of free downloads.

Now, I still own, and am quite addicted to, my Discman in terms of portable music, but with this downloadable music advent, I have been deliberating over making the jump into 21st century listening pleasure. I glance at my vinyl and CD collections and shed a silent tear; after all these years, I’m leaving all of you for something newer, slimmer, less demanding — I’m so sorry. But really, all of you in MP3 land must be thinking, “Those should be tears of joy and elation, not of alienation and despair.”

Perhaps you’re right.

That having been said, please allow me to delve into some inherent flaws I’ve noticed in the design of the CD that make future purchases uninspiring. For one, this innovation of the “Dual Disc” CD seems just plain absurd. For those unfamiliar, Dual Disc is basically a two-sided CD with one side representing the good old CD format and the other side being a DVD. One-sided CDs are difficult enough to care for — let’s not make it harder.

The Dual Disc design completely eliminates any space for artwork on the actual CD, resulting in bland, monotonous visuals while flipping through one’s CD jacket. As CDs become less and less unique, alternate forms of music such as the MP3 become that much more appealing.

I have come to believe the final deathblow to kill the CD will be the packaging. Not just the much-too-fragile jewel case or the often under-utilized liner notes. I refer to the plastic sheathing that adorns the album before it is initially opened. The sheer, obnoxious coating never gives a hint of tearing no matter how many times we scrape at it. The strength of human persistence is never enough to puncture the ornery membrane.

Countless times has this writer cursed in frustration, for I only want to enjoy the music, for I dig music, man. Usually I just surrender my masculine influence and reach for a kitchen knife. Yet, I could not help but note the tragic irony in opening the last Elliot Smith album with a baker’s knife in a froth of deflated frustration, stabbing once, twice, three times to reach the lifeblood inside.

Obviously, the music industry has led us all astray, but fear not listeners, for the answer is alive and well in free downloads and the $6.99 50 pack of CD-Rs from Circuit City. Until the iPod drops to a reasonable price, music-savvy multitudes will get their music the thriftiest and most convenient way possible.

Ryan deBiase is a junior English major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].