On Sunday I went to BJ’s with my parents, mostly to get out of the house. As usual, I made a beeline for the section that sells entertainment (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.) I scrutinized the book section without finding anything worth getting, briefly skimmed the DVD selection, and then- wait a minute! Where the heck are the CDs?! I ran around the general area looking for the CD section with no luck, until I ran into my parents. My mom said that she thought she saw some music stuff near the entrance of the store. So I went near the entrance, and sure enough, I found plenty of music-related equipment…BUT STILL NO CDS! It’s not that I really expected the place to sell anything I was interested in getting; I just wanted to see what they had. But I couldn’t find anything, and the apparent lack of CDs perplexed me until I noticed how many iPod-related items the store was selling. And then I realized: CDs are losing money now that iTunes has become the people’s musical overlords, and BJ’s must have stopped selling CDs because they’re no longer profitable to sell. But that’s no excuse! What about ornery little neophobes like me who still refuse to convert to iTunes? Doesn’t anyone care about us anymore?
Let me tell you why I’m so resistant to the iTunes phenomenon. First off, I have a large collection of CDs that I’ve spent years and lots of hard-earned allowance money compiling (okay, okay…so some of the CDs were gifts, and some aren’t technically mine, but my parents’. But I’ve still spent a lot of money on CDs). I’m not willing to abandon all the CDs that I’ve come to treasure just because there’s a new way to listen to music. My CD player still works fine after all these years. I’m not willing to spend $100+ on the latest music-playing device, especially when I know the one I buy now will soon be replaced by a newer and more spiffy model. I’m not willing to spend all that extra time getting the songs I already have on CD onto my new iPod. And besides all that, you don’t get album art with iTunes. You might get a microscopic picture of the album cover next to the song title on the iPod screen, but that’s it. And let’s not forget those booklets that come in CD cases! Whenever I get a new CD, the first thing I do is look at the insert. Sometimes, it’s just a single square sheet of paper with the album cover on the front and nothing more than the track listing on the back (BORING!), but many CD inserts include several pages of song lyrics, some pictures of the artist/band, and/or information on who plays what instrument, who wrote the songs, etc. And every now and then, I come across an album with something very special placed within its plastic or cardboard casing. For example, when I bought T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior” on CD, it came with a free poster tucked into its case (not that I expect many Americans and/or people my age to know who T. Rex were. And until I get around to devoting an entire post to the glam rock movement of the 1970s which T. Rex were the founders of, just trust me that it was a joy to have the late and great Marc Bolan and his halo of corkscrew hair gracing my dorm room wall last year). The insert that comes with The Raconteurs’ “Consolers of the Lonely” is chock full of goodies, such as a weird picture of each member of the band, as well as equally weird credits (Jack White is shown as a mad scientist in a skeleton suit; Patrick Keeler is credited to play “drums and repercussions”). The CD for Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are A-Changin'” comes with a 10-page insert filled with 11 free-form poems written by Dylan. You don’t get this stuff with iTunes. Also, one of the joys of CD buying is not knowing every song that I’m getting. I like getting albums that I know only a few songs on. That way, I can discover new songs and at least have the certainty of liking the handful of songs that I already know.
I’m not saying iPods don’t have their advantages, but none of those advantages have yet convinced me to give up on CDs and other “archaic” forms of music media (i.e. vinyl. Much as I’ve been championing the cause of CDs, they are but a trifle compared to sweet sweet vinyl). But I think I’ve done enough ranting about downloadable music. For now, anyway.