So a little over two years ago, I got the keys to my first house, picture the scene…There was so much mould I think the growing black organisms had formed a workers union and were demanding better facilities and the once beige walls now resembled baby sick. I had very little furniture let alone a CD player or turntable but I did have my iPad with enough data to last till the new Internet provider kicked in. So I bought some heavy duty cover all paint and rollers, stuck YouTube on the iPad and got stuck in. Music has always been an integral part of my life both on a personal and professional level, it was probably the first time since I was 15 that I didn’t own a CD player and in all honesty, I didn’t miss it one bit.
My new home was still filled with music, I painted and papered walls to the sounds of The Vaccines, I put together flat pack furniture as The Beatles sang about Penny Lane and Eleanor Rigby and I put away new Ikea plates to Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald. My once-treasured CDs remained in their packed box and were placed in the spare room cupboard and still remain there to this day. Now I listen to iTunes on my phone on the daily train commute or while out running, I have Spotify at work and on my laptop and YouTube on my TV that even has some fancy button on my remote for it. I still buy vinyl, which is reserved for limited edition releases of my favourite artists and are stacked neatly on a bookcase but never played, but I have not bought a CD since.
For both Sonder Festival and radio session bookings, I still regularly get sent music but now bands Facebook message me YouTube and Soundcloud links. I get constant notifications that I’m being tagged in new videos, which for the record gets kinda annoying, I like to fill my wall with Star Wars memes and Instagram pics of my cats behaving like weirdos and my awful attempts at Gordon Ramsey cookbook recipes. My student music press days when CDs were posted to me have definitely long since passed and it makes my life with music easier for numerous reasons. The first being I still don’t own a CD player; I just never got round to buying one and the second is my beloved cats would probably pee on the padded envelopes CDs would traditionally arrive through the post in. I appreciate the ease with which I can now consume music and the choice I now have at my disposal and in the case of YouTube, this unlimited music collection I now have access to is all free. Which brings me to the third reason: clearly I’m cheap.
Despite this, I still spend the same amount on my love of music that I always did. It now considered standard that a pair of tickets to the MEN and a few lukewarm wines will cost my monthly mortgage payment and a festival will set you back the same as week by a pool in Southern Spain. This massive increase in price has been justified by the need to recoup to loss of earnings through album sales as artists earn very little through Spotify and YouTube plays.
Whatever your opinion on some of the overproduced X-Factor driven drivel that dominates the charts, UK music industry sales are currently in a tasty looking state. According to the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA) in 2017, overall sales rose by 10% to a healthy £1.2bn, meaning the total value of the UK entertainment market is at an all-time high of £7.2bn.
But as listeners, are we missing out on a vital part of the story the artist is trying to tell us? Before the invasion of the digital age, the sequencing of tracks on an album was art in itself as an album had a story, it had a beginning and ending, it had planned changes of pace and mood. It would seem music consumers agreed they were missing out as in 2017 while digital downloads still accounted for over half of all sales, vinyl sales continued to rise again while CD sales dropped by 12%. Thanks to the mid-thirties crowd wanting to revisit their lost youth and bearded hipsters believing vinyl had a more authentic sound, 4.1m vinyl albums were purchased in the UK, which was the highest number since 1991, when and Nirvana released Nevermind.
Or maybe I’m just an out of touch cynic who deep down believes romance died when your school playground crush stopped making you mixtape from tracks recorded from the radio and handed you a mix CD instead, which then evolved into the zero effort link to a Spotify playlist. So enjoy your CD collections folks as methinks unlike beards and food served on anything but a plate, they won’t be around for much longer.