Saturday, April 05, 2008

Music CDs to Follow Suit of 8-Track

Most of us remember the 1980’s sitcom, Family Ties, starring Michael J. Fox. The original premise of the show was that the parents were far more liberal than the kids, at least the Fox character. It was a role reversal.

Recently, my son and I were discussing music, and music delivery devices, and went through a similar role reversal. He was looking through Borders for a special CD he wanted. He is into world music and so the artists he enjoys are not exactly mainstream. Sometimes their CDs are a little difficult to find.

So he came over to my house and we looked on where he found what he was looking for. After he previewed the tracks, he decided not to buy it. But we then took the opportunity to look up a classic band that we both enjoy, Chicago. They have a 40th anniversary album out that neither of us had.

Here’s where we started disagreeing a little on our preferred method of listening to music. Although the Chicago CD was available for purchase online, the MP3 version of the album could also be purchased and downloaded immediately. I decided to do that. My son always prefers the actual CD, so I told him I would burn him a copy.

Later on, we both went to Borders and looked through their CD collection. He remarked how small their CD section was compared to what it used to be. That was my cue. I told him that in a few years, CDs will have gone the way of the vinyl record. They will still exist, but only for a niche market.

He lamented how he would hate to see it happen, because he already owns about a thousand CDs.

But CD players will be sold for many years. There is little danger that he will not be able to play his CD collection in 10 years, or even 20. But by then, the CD itself will have gone the way of the 8-track tape.

His argument is that he wants to be able to physically hold the medium in his hand and be able to read the liner notes. I told him not to worry. That will still be possible.

Today, one can go into Borders or Wal-Mart and pick out a CD containing 12 songs of a favorite artist. You pick it up and buy it. But in a few years, buying music at Wal-Mart or Borders will be like getting your pictures developed. Instead of handing the clerk a roll of film, you just put your camera’s memory card into a slot and select the photos you want printed. An hour later, you pick them up.

Music will be the same way. You will go into the music store, pick out your own personalized collection of songs from a screen, hit a few buttons, and the music will either be burned to a disc or downloaded to your own memory card. If you want album art or liner notes, you can download those, too.

Most people have home computers, so even the trip to the music store will not really be necessary. Even now, the sale of downloaded music to personal computers is increasing exponentially, whereas the sale of actual CDs is dropping rapidly.

And, just as we can print our own photographs at home that look every bit as good as the ones we get from Wal-Mart, not everyone will choose to download their music at home. These are the people who will need to go to the music store to get their downloaded songs. And if a CD is what they want, they can have a custom one burned on the spot.

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