Compact Discs were first available to the public 40 years ago. Let’s say the birthday of the CD is October 1st, when Billy Joel’s album was the first commercial CD released (ABBA are sometimes said to have that honour, but theirs was produced before Billy Joel’s and released after). Due to the rise of online downloads and streaming, audio CDs were quite recently declared to be dead. Yet, as with vinyl and cassettes, they are becoming popular again and a lot of artists still release albums on CD. I’m not sure there is much of a market for CD singles, however, unless for the collectors. I doubt that many people bought CD players in 1982, when the first albums were released in this new format, but the technology would soon become more affordable and portable, dominating until the 2000s, when the internet changed our listening and buying habits.
I still listen to my CDs. I even buy new ones occasionally. I like to have a physical copy of the music and I also appreciate the effort put into track lists, which have been curated with care. Usually they include glossy booklets with lyrics, photos and more. CD packaging is a convenient size, not too big or small. Plastic cases are liable to crack, while the cardboard ones get scuffed, but the discs themselves are sturdier, if you manage not to scratch the underside.
When I switched from cassettes, it was weird to listen to an album without flipping it over or having to tighten the reel of loose tape, and it was simple to skip tracks instead of the imprecise art of fast-forwarding. I still think CDs are marvellous. Maybe it’s just because I’m accustomed to them, as I’m always a late adopter of new technology (I didn’t get a smartphone until 2016 and that was only because my old phone stopped working). However, I think it’s the same reason I prefer printed books. I find e-books very convenient for several reasons, but I’m very fond of printed books and if I had to choose one format, it would be the physical, for the look, feel and experience.
Not all CDs are equally desirable. Walk into any charity shop and you’ll see them being practically given away, most noticeably early 2000s pop, or the freebies from newspapers and magazines. I remember reading at least a decade ago that CDs cost 20p to manufacture. You can buy scruffy second-hand ones for little more than that now. However, remasters of classic albums, deluxe versions from contemporary artists, or rare albums which have never been reissued, can be expensive and surprisingly popular for a format that some people consider to be dead. I wouldn’t care to estimate how long the CD will be around for, but I hope that music fans will continue to enjoy the format for a few decades yet.
Do you listen to CDs? Or do you consider them obsolete? Maybe you prefer vinyl instead, or maybe you only stream online? Let me know!