Why I'd rather buy a CD than get free music downloads

I grew up with LPs (1970s) You know, huge, fragile things that wore out quickly but did at least have big, colourful album art and (usually) sleeve notes.

Then I moved to cassettes (1980s) Small, fragile things that wore out quickly and had quite titchy (but still colourful) album art and (even titchier) sleeve notes.

Then along came the CD (1990s/2000s) Slim, rather robust discs that never wear out. And which sound AMAZING. And the album art is reasonably readable and just as colourful. Great for collecting and for ripping at any quality I like.

And so we come to the download generation. Music stores (e.g. iTunes). Almost faceless MP3 and AAC music files. If you're lucky you get a tiny thumbnail graphic. Sound quality is a lot worse than CD if you listen closely. Just as expensive as CD, but you can find popular albums for free in the shadier corners of the (cough) Internet.

But you know what? I'd rather buy the CD for music I like than a collection of computer files that I'll 'try and backup but know that one day they'll go missing or corrupt or the encoding format will go out of fashion'....

I bought a CD yesterday. A double CD, actually. £12, by the superb Snowy White:

Two CDs, a deluxe booklet with interview, bio, lyrics, credits and so on. Nice cover artwork that will look great on my shelf. And perfect, digitally remastered sound (I'm listening now). Not bad for £12.

I'm not defending all music labels and all CDs - there are plenty of rip-off outfits out there. But choose wisely and the CD option really is a deluxe experience compared to the soul-destroying, unsatisfying trawling of torrent sites for music tracks that may or may not be what you want and may or may not be decently encoded.

£12 better than free? In this case, yes.

Maybe there's a model here for artists? Give away 128kbps MP3s of all music for free, but with prominent 'Enjoy this? Buy it on remastered CD, with artwork, collectables etc.' links. I think that would work. For me at least!


Anonymous said…
I'd agree completely with this apart from 128Kbps is probably too high a quality, 96 or even 64 is probably a better bet as I know some people with tinitis to who 128k is as good as it gets.

Also, if you've spent too much of your youth listening to Rush you'll probably fall into the same category..
James said…
I totally agree. In fact, for some bands, a business model based on giving away all their music for free should be viable. Big stadium gigs net the artists a massive profit compared to recorded music sales.
derloos said…
Wouldn't work for the artists I guess. And the Desiders, of course.

BTW, Mr. Litchfield, will you pay a visit to the SymbianSmartphone Show in the end of October?

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