I recently bought a new car. Nothing particularly remarkable about that, except that I noticed something while I was car shopping: you simply can’t buy a new car today that has a stock CD player. Not anywhere.
Think about that for a second.
For those of us roughly my age, we remember when all the pundits predicted that vinyl and magnetic tape would go the way of the dinosaur, and that this newfangled digital technology was going to take over the world. Sure enough, the compact disc (CD) invaded popular music and culture almost overnight, followed shortly thereafter by the digital video disc (DVD). For you youngsters who can’t remember a time before the internet, those are two different laser disc formats, one originally introduced for audio (and later extended to data), and the other originally introduced for video/audio (and later extended to data).
Except … these digital formats now seem to be themselves experiencing a mass extinction event themselves. The rise of smart phones and other portable devices along with Bluetooth audio has driven a stake right through the heart of laser discs. Nowadays kids play their music directly off their phones, and expect the TV and car stereo to be able to stream directly from their phones as well. And it works great.
But what about the impact on musicians? Is the idea of a physical disc dead and buried? Should artists even bother to release physical albums any more? Am I becoming the curmudgeon I always feared I would become?
While I do agree that becoming a grumpy old man is likely my ultimate destiny, I’m seriously considering that my next album will have no physical component whatsoever. Further, I’m seriously considering ignoring the 70 minute album length constraint that the audio CD spec imposed as an irrelevant anachronism. My next album may be 80 minutes long. Or 90. Or 150. Or 30. Who knows. Blasphemy, I know. But is it actually a good thing?
I’m interested in your thoughts. Is the physical disc a dead medium? Is something lost by moving on from it? Or is this the death of yet another artificial constraint? Should I as an artist continue to support physical media or am I just showing myself to be the old man I really am? Let me know what you think in the comments …