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!
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.