The Hard Copy

I had lunch with my friend Grant (yes he’s a different dude and I’m not speaking in third-person) about the subject matter of this past week’s show (Return of the CD). Together we share an affinity for both CDs, as well as mp3s. There’s something about having the hard copy of something that has a value and meaning for some people that younger individuals or generations might not understand.

I’m 30, so I’ve lived during the eras of different forms of audio experience. As a kid, my parents still had records and there were remnants of 8-tracks, though my folks didn’t embrace that medium. We had cassette tapes that we listened to constantly. When CDs came out, we were about 5 years behind the pop-culture curve. I got my first CD player in middle school as a teenager. My first 2 CDs were Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits and the first Weezer album. I still listened to TONS of mix tapes that I either recorded off the radio or were assembled by friends. In college, Napster and the other music download sites became huge. I have thrown away the cds I made or picked up from those places (I honestly did around age 24). But that was the cusp of the change into our current era, where music is acquired over the Internet in a digital form that your hands will never touch.

Apple took the mp3 method of gaining sound for yourself and added a higher quality to it (your iTunes download is aac not mp3, if you didn’t know). Now you can buy digital versions of songs that are many many times higher quality than mp3, and higher quality than CD. I don’t know the name of this version of audio, but I hear it costs about $25. That’s wild.

When I have to turn in reports at work, the question is asked whether I need to submit a digital copy or a hard copy. I wonder how much longer we’ll live in a world that knows both of those mediums. Will anything that’s digital make what is tangible obsolete? Grant was telling me that he gets solicitations regularly for albums for sale in CD version for 50-75% off. I get some of those too. We speculated what the reason for that is. I don’t know if there is one reason or answer. Here’s my theory: The industry or disc makers have decided that CD sales are such a small percentage of the digital track and album sales, so the cost to produce and publish hard copies is on the rise. Therefore, they’re not going to make as many discs for an artist as they used to. Maybe even going so far as to say that disc copies make it more expensive for indie labels and mainstream labels to cut back on their production. Stores hearing this have hence decided to cut back their inventory and restructure how their stores are set up for selling hard copies.

That’s just a theory and the only thing to corroborate that is looking at how stores that sell CDs and/or movies are changing the way their departments for those items are configured. I’m finding that stores are changing how they’re setup and seemingly liquidating a lot of hard copies. So for these reasons, or at least with this impression, it seems to me that now is the time to buy CDs. If you can find a hard copy of an album for $4 or $5, that’s cheaper than downloading it for $10 or more online. Plus you have the hard copy in case some strange thing happens where your hard drive crashes or your computer dies and you lose your music collection. I confess that’s a reason why I’m not sold on this whole “cloud” thing. I want the hard copy. There’s insurance in having it.

These are just some thoughts that came to light in conversation. There’s more to be said and in the coming weeks I’ll elaborate more on it. Your thoughts are always welcome. Leave a comment and let’s talk.

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Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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