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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Digital Ash

Last week, an extensive entry about the future of the music industry appeared on the New York Times' Freakonomics blog. A college professor, an author, a music producer and two label owners chimed in with their opinions for a refreshing and very well-done piece.

One quote by author Fredric Dannen really touched a nerve with me though. And I don't mean this in a negative way. Rather, it was the realization about a trend whenever there is a new, major advance in technology:
. . . consumers of recorded music will always embrace the format that provides the greatest convenience. No other factor — certainly not high fidelity — will move consumers substantially to change their listening and buying habits.

Amazing how this simple explanation explains the popularity of the eight-track, the four-track cassette, the Walkman, the MiniDisc, and the iPod. It even explains the popularity of the CD, but there's something I've never understood with those that, even after all these years, still prefer vinyl over CD.

As far back as I can remember, I started listening to music right around the time CDs came out. I heard vinyl records before CDs and frankly, I couldn't tell a difference in sound. Only years later did I tell a difference, but still found the compact disc the preferred format for a variety of reasons. Namely, even though the sound of a CD doesn't cut as deep a vinyl, I don't have to worry about pops and crackles with a CD. Plus, I can listen for 74-80 minutes straight without having to get up. The way I see it, it's a minor con with a lot of major pros.

Since my first CD purchases, I have been surrounded by CDs in my living situations. Frankly, I couldn't see myself selling off my CDs for the convenience of digital. The twenty gigs I have on my computer devoted to music are nice, but I don't have complete faith in digital just yet. Just a simple error with a computer could wipe out thousands of songs. And that's scary. Plus, it's hard for me to imagine listening to music all the time on the computer. Believe it or not, I find it hard to write while I have my iTunes going. But for some reason, I can write while I listen to a CD in my den's CD player. Hell, I even wrote the bulk of this post while listening to a Scott Walker mix CD.

Rounding back to the point at hand, yes, the convenience is what the consumer goes for. But in the case of the CD-to-digital conversion, I'm still very hesitant. But at least I don't have to worry about buying the same music again like when vinyl albums were phased out for CDs.

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