Thursday, April 16, 2009

RIP: CDs, 09/09/09?

The Beatles are re-releasing all of their albums on CDs this September 9th. That in and of itself is not terribly interesting or newsbreaking. However, I've seen several sites suggesting that that release date effectively marks the end of the CD. Quoth Pitchfork:

This is the final word on these [Radiohead] records, if for no other reason that the Beatles' September 9 remaster campaign is, arguably, the end of the CD era. That all of those discs are coming out at the same time, rather than being slowly and ceremoniously rolled out as they were 20-odd years ago, is a tacit acknowledgment by the music industry that they best sell non-vinyl physical products now, immediately, before the prospect of doing so is gone. With that in mind, I find it wise that many bands are wisely re-organizing their pasts, or having it done for them by their label. So long as it's done like this, I'm happy to re-purchase the stuff.

I previously had thought the impending death of the CD to be greatly overstated. I suspected it may eventually happen in practical terms, but such claims have been made since I was in undergrad and Napster was launched. I never sensed an immediacy that marked the "inevitable" decline of buying music in concrete, material form. However, even if it doesn't end up being a dead letter as of 09/10/09 (which I suspect won't happen - nobody's going to say, "OK, that's a wrap for the CD!"), when phrased in the terms above, and given the constant new innovations in digital music and DIY in a digital age, for the first time, I'm actually wondering if something I love (music not just as an aural experience, but as something tangible in my hands, too) really is about to effectively fade away. There has been a sudden burst of "collector's edition" albums that I found puzzling (why now? why so suddenly? why all at once?), and it's completely undeniable that digital music is taking over.

So I ask our dear readers - do you think the death of the CD really this imminent now? And if so, what suggestions could you make to dinosaurs who have mild contempt for technology and love our albums as physical objects? What kind of environmental impact are we looking at if the landfills start filling up somewhat with what I imagine are pretty non-biodegradable plastic products like CDs? What other issues will the supposed "death of CDs" raise? Comments are welcome and encouraged....