In the weekly Guide Solved! In the column, we take a crucial pop culture question you’ve been eager to know the answer to and solve it once and for all
When compact discs started hitting the shelves at Woolworths in the 1980s, freed boomers set out to dump all the vinyl clogging their entertainment centers. After an investment in a three-disc changer and some CD towers, they could rest easy knowing they were ready for the future. A couple of decades, and a few music industry collapses later, no one wants CDs anymore. The music is now hazy, swirling around us like a particularly melodious dust storm or, in the case of Gary Barlow’s new album, a fart in an elevator.
And here millennials sit, reluctantly following in the wake of the boomers, at the center of a generational Venn diagram: in the unique position of having CDs, vinyl, and iTunes. Y transmission. For the better part of a year, it’s been time for a cleanup: so as we return to something akin to a normal life, do we dare to take the last step to tidy up and avoid our CD collections?
We’ve heard the boomers’ stories of regret on vinyl: “I should have stuck with that”; “Much richer sound.” They look longingly Discogs, masochist checking how much that Boney M picture disk is worth now. Will millennials put themselves in the same position? Vinyl has seen a resurgence in sales that exceeded all expectations; even cassette tape, the crudest format since shellac, is back. CDs are unlikely to enjoy such a renaissance: they are inherently unpleasant, without the richness or tactile nature of vinyl, or the eccentric Urban Outfitters irony of tapes. They remain coveted only as part of eight-disc deluxe box sets containing five to 75 versions of the same song.
But is it safe to destroy your collection? With a monthly streaming subscription, or even iTunes, we are paying for a license to listen to the music, not for the ownership of the music itself. What if, like last month with a series of K-pop songs on Spotify, the music that we cherish and listen to every day suddenly disappears? Or worse yet, what if in 15 years streaming services are completely phased out? We will be stripped and our Songs to Cry To playlist will be inaccessible. In a drawer under the bed, however, your trusty copy of Now 33 will always be waiting.
Of course, there are also sentimental reasons to keep our CDs. For some of us, they are a physical manifestation of youth; an autobiography record by record. Some even still have the price tags of long-closed stores (RIP, The Longplayer Tunbridge Wells). The giants (Tower Records, Virgin Megastores, Our Price) disappeared over time, but we still have the music we bought there.
So while we reconsider the value of the supposed heirlooms that have been gathering dust in the loft, the clothes that have never been worn, the boxes of crap competing with the car for garage space, even friends or acquaintances who have shown themselves to themselves. Requirements Surplus Removed – Should the CD Collection Survive? In the midst of our stressful lives and the new beginnings we are about to embark on, our CDs are little time capsules worth keeping.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism