The Dying Compact Disc and the Void to Fill

To Doug Schneider,

I enjoyed your article on the Compact Disc, and I generally agree with your points. Having recently purchased a network-attached storage drive and a Sonos controller to stream my lossless files to my stereo, I’m moving away from discs too. However, I continue to buy Compact Discs to convert to lossless files, because I have yet to find a reliable online source for CD-quality (or better) music. I’ve heard rumors that Apple intends to launch higher-resolution iTunes offerings, but until there is an accessible source for something better than 256kbps MP3, I will continue to buy CDs.

I know there are sites that offer some types of music in higher resolutions, but if I want the latest Muse or Depeche Mode or Tori Amos album, the pickings are slim. I’ve seen some of the paltry offerings available in Canada, and even if I were willing to pay almost double the CD price, I believe the onus would be on me to back everything up since “ownership” is not tracked through an account such as iTunes. I'm sure the industry will get there, but I don’t feel it is there yet.

Happy New Year,
Craig M.

Your experiences mirror my own; in fact, an hour ago I ripped two CDs that I recently purchased because I hadn't seen them available for download in CD quality or better. Still, there’s no question that in the near future CDs will be almost impossible to find locally since specialized music stores such as HMV are closing, and big chain stores such as Future Shop (Canada) and Best Buy (Canada and the United States), which used to have huge music selections, are carrying hardly any at all these days. So I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a year or two, the only place to find a reasonable selection of CDs in Canada and the United States is Amazon -- and in, say, five years, there might not be such a thing as a brand-new CD to buy.

So that will leave a void, and when that happens, other things will pop up to take its place. Likely, download sites will grow, though, for numerous reasons, I don’t see Apple and iTunes coming to the rescue in that regard. But some other companies likely will; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the music companies offering the downloads themselves (why they haven’t yet is anyone’s guess). I also see online streaming services such as Tidal, which is of European origin, but recently opened in Canada and the United States, gaining an even stronger foothold. Right now Tidal offers CD-quality streaming and has a catalog of over 25 million songs, which is likely to grow and grow and grow. For the price, about $20 per month here in Canada, it can’t be beat given the quality that they offer -- so if you haven’t signed up with Tidal yet, do so.

So, yes, right now we’re in a transition period, but don’t make the mistaken assumption that some have that the Compact Disc is coming back the way the LP did. For all the reasons I pointed out in that article, its time has come and is now almost gone. The only question to be answered it what will take its place. . . . Doug Schneider