For a minute there, nothing seemed to signify the future more than a compact disc: a world of music scientifically wrapped up somehow on a circle as thin as a razor that refracted a specter of Stunningly beautiful colors in the light, it took lasers you would never see to release the sound inside.
It was enough to get you to release and redeem all the albums you already own on vinyl or cassette – after all, it would definitely be the last time. Because it was inconceivable that another technology would come to make the powerful CD obsolete. Of course, back in 1994, no one knew how important this “@” symbol would soon become. Katie Couric (and therefore the rest of humanity) didn’t even know how to pronounce it.
At the time, the same year, Green Day was coming out Dookie and Justin Bieber entered the world, record stores seemed to be entering a golden age. Not only centers of commerce, they were gathering places for young and old alike – anyone needing or wanting to be surrounded by relevance.
Of course, record stores at the time rarely sold real records. You can buy Ace of Base maxi singles, jurassic park on VHS and an endless number of music magazines printed on real glossy paper, but you would need to dig into a buried release shelf near the back to find sparse copies of anything on vinyl.
In the dawn of the internet, few realized that this was a harbinger of the end of record stores – which in the 90s were actually CD stores.
But as the dawn of the internet took a peek at the pop culture horizon, few realized that this was a harbinger of the end of record stores – which in fact were CD stores. (The dinosaurs probably didn’t care much about this asteroid when they first noticed it in the sky that day, either.) However, all things are cyclical, and what is old must come back to life. new. Vinyl records – one source of material for DJs and the way anyone 30 or over heard for the first time Polar – quickly became the The ultimate listening format for audiophiles. And now the record shops are real save stores again (as they were until the late 80s), with their own national holiday.
That’s not to say they don’t deserve it: they are humanity’s last outposts in the cold, post-apocalyptic wasteland of today’s music industry. Streaming and downloading made up 64% of all music-generated revenue last year according to the RIAA, and although vinyl sales have grown by over 50% from 2013, they still only account for 2%. of total sales. So by all means go buy a record on Record Store Day. After all, these new ultra-collectible luxury vinyl records are exponentially cooler than before. (And, yes, I know they do exclusive CDs for Record Store Day as well.)
But these statistics mean that the vast majority of the music-consuming masses (those who are not vinyl purchase) lost their version of record stores years ago. The extinction led not only to gaping holes in shopping center windows, but also to a huge hole in hearts. This led the diehards to embrace the revitalized vinyl industry, making the remaining physical (and largely independent) record stores all the more vital.
But will there ever be the same kind of love for CDs? After all, even cassettes are once again slightly in fashion (except for Fashionable cassettes, which are still miserably ignored). For at least a generation, music has existed entirely on compact disc. Now the medium as a whole seems intended for landfills like so many others. discarded Atari cartridges (which, of course, are now going for a decent amount on eBay).
It’s perfectly understandable why we have such ambivalence towards CDs now – it’s the same reason high school kids have no idea what answering machines were (or the concept of never being unreachable).
It’s perfectly understandable why we have such ambivalence towards CDs now – it’s the same reason why high school kids have no idea what answering machines were (or the concept of never being unreachable) and same reason the cars are not factory equipped with eight- follow players anymore. It’s just the way our relationship with technology works. But, on a tangible level, CDs require a lot less physical interaction on our part in order to reap the rewards than any other music format you can hold in your hands.
To listen to a vinyl record, you must first handle it as if it were a precious commodity – even a small scratch or speck of dust can take its toll – and then you have to operate a very specific machine. to make it work, flipping it over once you reach the end of Side One. Even cassettes require a Following personal connection to music in order to enjoy it. With no way to instantly jump between tracks (or even visible markers), you would need to press play, discern where you were in the context of the album, and then move forward or quickly return to the song you want to hear. It was incredibly archaic but, in retrospect, incredibly romantic.
With a CD, however, you need nothing more than the track list and a functional “skip” button. But then we connected with them in different ways: Their portability meant we could take more with us, filling ubiquitous binders, travel cases, or even car windshields with as much as we saw fit. You never knew when or where you would be when you felt a sudden, irrational urge to hear Temple of the Dog.
In the end, compact discs are probably done and that’s fine. I’m not calling for some sort of abandonment of the Thoreau-inspired counter-establishment of today’s post-modern streaming culture. I’m not saying they’re better than vinyl either. I’m just saying maybe we should go back to the age of the compact disc with a little more respect. It’s a neon-lit era filled with midnight album releases, in-store listening stations, and real-life human interactions – which still exist if you love vinyl, but are gone for everyone with Tower Records. .
But knowing how all things once considered quaint eventually turn cool again, I’m going to hang on to at least a few boxes of my favorite CDs for at least two more decades. Because once all of those original Temple of the Dog CDs are long gone, my original pressing could become invaluable to kids who will reverse engineer their own DiscMan fakes in 2031.