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Downloads Rule : CDs are Dead

These great conveniences. . . come at a cost.

I can't tell you how much I would have missed out on if I didn't buy the CD. No, not the entire download, but the actual, real, physical, hold it in your hand, easy-to-crack jewel case, don't-let-the-dog-chew-on-it shiny plastic and aluminum disk. Downloads are fine if all you want is a one-shot, simple, single song. But if the artist is worth even that, I believe it's worth buying the whole physical CD. Why? For the liner notes. Who cares? I do. Here's why. I want to be able to find out who else is playing on the recording. Unless it's a solo album, there's a lot of other talent besides the headliner. Sometimes I want to check out the technical information about the recording. I want to read the credits. What brand piano is being played? What kind of guitar is it? I like seeing photos and getting all that ancillary stuff you don't get with a download. I can rip whatever singles I want from the CD to my iPhone. Yea, I know, the liner notes can be downloaded too. But I want the hardcopy in my hands.

And there are two more reasons for buying the CD. Good albums are not merely a haphazard collection of random songs. They are carefully selected and sequenced. Good albums are a unified whole from start to finish where one piece leads into the next making the album a single, unified work of art. I would have missed out on lots of music I otherwise might not have heard if I hadn't gotten the entire CD. Many times it has taken me a number of listenings to appreciate certain tracks. Something I wouldn't have done without the entire album. Plus, I would have missed out on the 'concert' experience. Listening to the whole CD from beginning to end is like having a personal private concert. Sit back, turn down the lights and get carried off to another world. Can't do that with a single. Secondly, I want the convenience of hardcopy. Grab it off the shelf and open it up—like a book. Digital files provide a different type of convenience, but with the physical CD I can have both types of convenience. Keeping backups are possible, yet I want the security of knowing there's a hardcopy on the shelf should anything happen to the digital files.

Maybe it's old school. Maybe my argument isn't very compelling. Maybe my resistance to downloading is because I can't put my finger on a digital file. It makes me feel so insecure to only have a virtual copy. Maybe it's because I like the certainty of a physical interface better than a software interface. Maybe I'm giving artists and producers too much credit and respect for their aesthetics. Maybe I'm paranoid about hard drive crashes—inevitable—and backup failure—you know it happens. For these reasons I still want the full, uncut CD. I want the original hardcopy, liner notes, and the entire multimedia experience in my hands.

Music executives just don't get it.

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