What's Next For The Music Collectors

With the demise of the high street stores and the ever growing iTunes era of music, is there anything left for the hard core music collectors, who could be forgiven for thinking they've been left a bit short of options!

Ultimate Guitar

Over the past few months I've been seriously thinking about what to do with my music collection. I've been collecting CDs for over 20 years now and have a lot of them, but lately I've been finding harder to justify my steadfast belief of "it's better to have something to hold and look at". Are CDs just getting in the way and am just delaying the inevitable by keeping them on my bookshelves whilst they outlive their commercial shelf life.

I wasn't around to appreciate the glory days of vinyl, and nor can I explain the huge sense of nostalgia that surrounds opening a beautifully packaged, gatefold vinyl sleeve with bespoke artwork and extensive liner notes that were not only a visual treat but were part of a unique and complete package delivered by the artist(s) in question. This formed a great deal of the "experience" of discovering new music.

My only attempt at relating to that kind of experience was when I was in my teens, saving a week's dinner money and avoiding my Monday morning lessons to wander down to my local independent record store (we had two stores at the time, how times have changed!) to buy the latest release that had barely touched the shelves that morning. Then I'd walk proudly back to school with the CD jammed neatly in my Discman and if I could blag it, the promotional poster that was advertising the release in the window!

Now, over a decade on, the music industry has undergone another massive upheaval, there are no shops. At least, no independents left in my home town, and rarely can you find one further afield these days - good luck to those that are still around. Unfortunately, the big chains that helped put them out of business are also dying a death, Zavvi disappeared in 2009, their massive predecessors Virgin Megastores disappeared two years earlier in 2007, and now, only a few years later, we're watching the UK's largest music chain HMV take a turn for the worst. Sad times for all those involved.

Professor Green, like his music or loathe it, hit the nail on the head, "HMV bankrupt. We may as well just give up on any medium that involves hard copy and get on with it". But should these times of hardship on the high street directly affect our experience of new music? Where has the experience gone? Furthermore, do we even need that experience any more?

I've avoided digital music like the plague for years because I'm a self confessed "audiophile" and want the best quality music in lossless form. For me to realistically give up over 1,500 CDs and over 20 years worth of collecting my favourite bands output, I'd have to be getting more for my "loss".

It's strange to think that CDs are now 30 over years old and have given us three decades of good quality music. But technically, not the best quality that studio's have to offer. I'm of course talking about studio quality audio (24bit +), as opposed to a CDs limited 16bit. To some, the difference is trivial, to others it is the near "perfect" sound that is craved and loved. It's an important to keep in mind because since vinyl was outlawed in the early 90's, the consumer has been treated to less than perfect audio - sold with the "convenience" tagline. Now, with the dawn of MP3, a lot of studio output has been "mastered for iTunes", taking audio quality to inferior depths and again we're being treated to a lesser (however, more convenient) product for our hard earned cash. In this day and age of HDTV and 3DTV, the film industry is taking quality of video to the next level, it would be safe to say that the music industry is taking backward steps in comparison.

It's hard to deny that the CDs we've bought over the years will inevitably be worthless in the very near future, it's hard to see the CD being held in such high regard as vinyl and as such, won't see a revival like vinyl has in 20 years time - the format is flawed and simply, isn't good enough, therefore hasn't and won't hold its value. As much as that hurts to admit, it seems like a very real prospect. So now I've ripped my CDs in lossless format to my external hard drive for convenience purposes, what do I do with the 1,500+ CDs I have sitting doing nothing? Nor do I want to keep buying CDs to rip, then to sell. So what are my choices?

I'm not here to argue the merits of "high resolution" audio, nor the conveniences of it compared to MP3 and iPod compatibility. But it could be our only route to rediscovering the magic of buying and discovering new music. But, in my opinion it could be the closest we're going to get to hearing music as it was staged in the studio and the closest we're likely to get to hearing the nuances of instruments that vinyl was renowned for, the only difference is that it's a lot more "cleaned up" compared to the warm crackle of a dusted off and beloved vinyl!

However, there's still a lack of ownership, and that nostalgia is lost without having something to hold and look at and admire. For some, the inability to put an MP3 on their shelf to show their friends that they've a complete collection of Pink Floyd records is off putting. So how do we conquer this and how does the music industry recapture the hearts of the music lovers and collectors who, like me, have been resistant to change since the inception of the iTunes era? What's next for the music lovers who can't be blamed for feeling a little hard done by with a lack of something to hold and a low quality download compromise.

24 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The quality will improve eventually, of that I have no doubt. At the very least I cannot see a potential downgrade in terms of the quality of digital music. Vinyl is also making a comeback, although not really relevant in terms of shaking the industry at least there are some who do appreciate quality music in these days of digital mania.
    Maybe in the near future, we'll have 3D printers to print CD's or vinyl. Awesome artwork and inserts included. Best of both worlds! (Printers that are cheaper and more tested, that is)
    As mentioned, files can achieve a higher quality than CDs can. If the industry starts using high quality files more commonly I'll gladly let CDs go as a medium. As for any physical copy, I do second vinyl making a comeback. It has a quality benefit that can't be touched by the other formats. If I could have my computer files be high quality lossles files straight from the mastering session, and have my physical copies be nice vinyl pressings, there would really be no need for CDs anymore. I'll take quality over nostalgia any day. Also, something I keep seeing is people using "CD" and "digital" separately. CDs are just as digital as the files on your computer. I don't know if it's an actual misunderstanding or just a misuse of words.
    >mfw people actually believe that vynil is a high quality medium
    High quality anything depends more on your system than the format. A well pressed record will have a high quality to it as will a high quality digital format. People tend to enjoy the warmth an analog format gives too, even though ironically it's actually less of a true rendition of the song. Also nice spelling and meme arrows.
    I picked up a forty year old Styx album at a Goodwill for a buck, and it really does play as well as any digital copy. All depends on the condition of the record you have.
    Speaking of audiophiles, I could bet if I would put my digital mp3 music on vynyl and give it to any one of them to listen, they would be convinced that they are listening to the true lossless music format.
    anvil is god
    It depends entirely on kps. At 320, it's hard to tell. Below that, you can really tell.
    Even at 320 you can tell, it can be very subtle though. The horrible 128 kbs AAC files itunes are scamming the public with sound atrocious though.
    Danjo's Guitar
    Are you saying that Vinyls are better quality than CDs? Because thats not true. And if they start releasing 24-bit digital copies of stuff I guess thats cool, but they better make a player with the capacity to hold 10,000 of them still. And they'd also have to start mixing for high quality speakers and headphones again, instead of laptops and cars.
    I know Tampa still has some big CD and vinyl shops. Also I think it's interesting that the Audiophile author doesn't know his CDs are digital (but maybe it's just his English). Really the internet will be the best source for super high quality music, because there isn't any real limit to filesize beyond convenience.
    I don't think I said CDs weren't digital, the very fact I mention "16bit" surely indicated that I knew CDs are indeed a digital format? That said, apologies for any confusion caused when I mentioned about putting them on my PC for convenience purposes. Thanks for reading
    i would hate to see CD's go. every time i buy one, i feel like i just connected a bit with the artist. they have the picture in their audio book showing their personality. i buy CD's a lot, i probably pay about 100-200$ a year for CD's. i have a whole cabinet full and i listen to every single one. i think the only reason why HMV is getting bankrupt is because of their prices. i would pay 15$ for a new CD but after about six months it should go down to about 10$ not to 14$. i like the whole, 'we have CD's at three great prices!' but, the only thing in HMV that is 5$ is CD's from a few years ago. all in all, after reading this article i agreed with a lot of it. i do use itunes to put the music from my CD's to the computer and if there is a single out that i want, i'll buy it from there. i listen to music from itunes and from CD's and they both sound the same. personally, i think that because of all the technology, CD's may die hard because everybody will be buying their CD's and songs off of itunes.
    I feel like there will always be a physical medium for music, im not sure what that will be but there will be one. I for one would think it would be awesome to have an sd card type medium, there could still be artwork but it would be scaled down and still have a physical object plus capacity isn't huge issue anymore and we could have losslessm music
    There are two independent vinyl shops in the CBD where I live, and one that I know of about half an hour away. One of them sells tonnes of punk and obscure rock cds as well. Is it only England that seems to have no small music shops? Or are people just not looking hard enough?
    Never bought a digital release in my life. It's not wrong if you do, but I'll never concider it the same thing. Like the author says, it's magical to come home with a record you've been longing for and looking through all the details. If it was up to me everything would be released on vinyl in gatefold sleeves and with huge booklets containing lyrics and liner notes.
    I was anti iTunes for years but there's no way out of it,I love how it's so easy to get a album dl to your phone in minutes,let's embrace the future.
    I don't know. I honestly can't see itunes becoming the future, it's a closed platform... and it only runs on windows/mac. Being a Linux user here, it isn't available. The amazon MP3 store is however. If there's going to be a monopoly for digital music in the future i think it will more likely be amazon than itunes.