Who listens to CDs nowaday?

I'll follow one of my favourite presentation scheme: The question game:

CDs? What's that?

A bit of history, will you?

The first music Compact Disc was "pressed" in 1981 (Quite amazing trivia: I was born the same year). It quickly superseded the vinyl and a bit later the audio cassette. It is basically a digital drive that lets you store 700Mb of data. The standard data format for CD players lets you load a maximum of 80 minutes of stereo music on a CD.
Since then, many advances have been made in digital media and file compression. And using a 10cm object to store 700Mb of read-only data seems anachronistic as of today. In addition to that, new file formats make it possible to put up to 800 minutes of music on 700Mb. That's a tenfold improvement. But somehow, you still find CDs all over the music shops. Actually you find only that.

So, how comes that the CD has not been superseded in turn? 30 years is an eternity for a technological product.

Then why CDs are still around?

Well, the CD was the first successful audio format. It is certainly a lousy digital format (read-only, slow and fragile) but digital nonetheless. Any later iteration would have to be digital and would inevitably be a lot more convenient and flexible ; in addition to being bigger in memory, smaller in size, tougher, faster of access, cheaper... progress rocks!

Those improvement would make it close to impossible to keep the customers from sharing the music they like. I mean, if I have a convenient digital copy of an album that I loved and I want my buddy Vlad to hear it, I ain't going to put the album in my bag, ride the bus to his place, ring his bell and play it for him. I'll just email or stream it to him. And the way I know him, he's going to do the same with his friends.
Right now, when you buy a CD, it is inconvenient enough to do that. You'd first need to convert it to an appropriately compressed format (mp3 if you're old school, wma if you're stupid, ogg otherwise). Plus, a lot of people don't know how to do that.

So, keeping the CD alive is a way to sort of keep the copyrighted content from spreading over the world at the sale of the first copy. The other way being to scare people into paying for music by fining some randomly picked victims hundreds of thousands of dollars for a few illegally downloaded songs. Switch to a more convenient digital media and it really gets out of hands.

But, dude! That's a really bad reason!

Yep. Let's come to term with reality. A world where having a library of 3000 songs at reach costs 5100€ (based on 17€ an album of 10 songs) is just unacceptable. What kind of cultural-retard-of-a-world is that going to be? And that is just 10 Gb of music. I know few people that only have 10 Gb of music lying at hand. Multiply it to know the market-price of your own collection.

And I'm not even talking about the quality of the music brought to us by the music industry in general. I do that with much use of superlatives over there in one of my stories.

In addition to that, the distribution scheme is all a huge bag of non-sense. Artists see only 1/13th of the price of each CD they sell. That's like 1,5€ per CD. It gets lower for new artists. And it makes sense too. You need to pay for the lobby that spends billions sueing as many victims as possible and pressuring government to outlaw internet. But mostly, the music (that is on a hard drive to begin with) needs to be pressed onto CDs, those loaded in trucks that are themselves loaded into boats, that deliver it in big stores in various city centers where it awaits customers. Square meter in city centers are far from cheap. 1/3 of the price of a CD goes to the shop that sells it.
Now, the customers need to get out of their respective homes, for most ride some sort of transportation or drive a car... to finally be allowed to pay 17€ and get their hands on the damn 10 songs. And guess what, more and more when they get home, they put the CD in the computer to take it back to its original form so that they may load it in their music player. Then what do they do with the CD itself? If their flat is small enough, it is very likely to end up in the trash.

What do you suggest then?

All that is very well tackled by "downloading the album". Wether for free of for money. Having the choice, I suppose most people would go for the first.

Now check this out. If instead of releasing through the usual channels, an artist would just revoke his copyright, encourage sharing and free usage... he is likely to hit a much larger audience than when every copy of his production is sold 17€. Now, let's take a worst case scenario and say he reaches only 3 times the audience than when you have to pay (all other details being equal). Then it takes each of the people that got a copy to wire him 50c and he will break even. Beats the 17€ that you paid for the last CD you bought, doesn't it?
Ok, having everyone to forward the cash sounds bit unrealistic. But it is not unlikely at all that a few people that liked it a lot will be willing to donate more than 20€. Way more, if the song rrreally marked them. Then maybe 10% of those that got it liked it enough to donate something, and 90% either didn't like it, either liked it but didn't feel like donating. But it doesn't matter, because if the 10% that forwarded something reach an average of 5€ each, our friend breaks even. Without any of the music-industry-nonsense.

Some artists have done just that, and it has been very difficult for them because there was no recognised channel for them to make their work known to the world. But it needs not stay that way. Actually, I tricked you. It is not that way any more. There is a channel for music that is free of charge and free of chains. It is called a pretty stupid name but it has amazing music.


One week on it and I have 4 new favourite bands.

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