Walking through a record store is a treasured experience for music fans. They offer a place for music lovers to explore copies of their favorite albums or see which of their favorite artists’ music the store may carry. Personally, I love owning physical copies of my favorite music. Going through my collection and looking through all the different album covers and genres while deciding what to listen to is always an exciting task.
Despite general sales of physical music decreasing, vinyl sales continue to increase as it was the most popular physical music format sold last year. However, I’m confused as to why vinyl has become so popular compared to other physical formats, like CDs. It requires inconvenient technology to actually listen to it, has a large carbon footprint and, especially with increasing popularity, can be expensive. And these aren’t even all of vinyl’s shortcomings.
The increase in popularity of vinyl records is a prime example of fast-moving trends. But, this forced consumption ends up doing more harm than good. People might purchase vinyl records simply for the look of it or to fit in with a current trend without considering the impacts of what they are purchasing. Of course, the burden does not fall entirely on consumers, but still, we should be thoughtful about what we buy and why we buy it.
Even when it comes to online music streaming services, data is stored in large “data centers” that use massive amounts of energy. It is estimated that streaming an album more than 27 times will use more energy than it takes to make a single CD. Though maybe not for the songs you only listen to a couple of times, CDs overall have a much smaller carbon footprint and are a better option when it comes to your favorite music.
Additionally, with streaming services, listeners have to continually buy their music over and over again with monthly fees. By owning CDs, you can buy the music you love once and listen to it for a lifetime. You also never have to worry about the music you love disappearing from your collection one day, as you would with streaming services.
We should also question where our money goes once we spend it. For streaming services, the answer is pretty unclear, with major companies such as Spotify reluctant to release data on how they pay musicians. In comparison, musicians make more per CD sale than per stream on average. So buying CDs gives a bigger portion of your money to the artists actually making the music.
The sad reality is that art and the people who create art are undervalued. Major streaming companies perpetuate this idea by not fairly compensating most artists. And though record labels or CD manufacturers are not perfect either, they at least have more transparency about who gets the money that we spend.
I will admit that though I have been advocating for CDs, I do own some vinyl records myself. And while I enjoy having some of my favorite albums on vinyl, I also own a lot of CDs. Having experience with both physical music formats, I can say that I more frequently reach for my CDs than my vinyl records, as they are much easier and more convenient to listen to. This is mainly due to the fact that CDs are smaller, less fragile and require simpler technology for listening.
Some people may argue that music sounds better on vinyl, as it may more closely sound like what was originally played when recording. This may be true for a vinyl record in perfect condition, but most vinyl does not sound perfect. There is care required with vinyl, and neglecting that may result in distinct cracks or pops in the sound. Additionally, vinyl has physical differences that may make the sound more inconsistent, such as the varying circumference that the needle covers as the record spins.
As someone who has fond memories of listening to CDs in the car with friends or family, or alone while attempting to study, I can attest to the importance of CDs. Music brings us together, especially music in practical and accessible forms. Recently, when my friends and I went to get ice cream, we listened to a Phoebe Bridgers CD in the car. Singing along with them made me realize how much joy comes from my assortment of CDs. It is essential that we recognize the value of art, including music, and make efforts to be the best consumers of that art as we are able to.
So, the next time you’re out deciding which type of physical music to purchase, or even how to listen to your music in general, give CDs a chance. They may be even better than you anticipate.