November 13, 2015. That was the last time I bought a physical copy of an album. I know it’s not that long ago, but considering the world that we live in today, buying a physical copy is something of the past. But when did it become the norm to stop buying CDs and to start digitally download or stream music? And why do artists still stick with the format of the album?
On August 17, 1982, the first compact disc was manufactured in a Philips factory in Germany. Philips soon joined forces with Sony to develop and perfect the compact disc. Later in the year, the first CDs and CD players were introduced to the masses in Japan with great interest. Two years later, the disc took Europe by storm, with roughly 25 million CDs being produced (“History of the CD” n.d.). With this new musical technology now open to the public, the vinyl was replaced placed on the back burner.
We all know what the CD looks like (or I hope we all do).It’s a polycarbonate plastic disc with a transparent layer only 1.2mm thick. And on that disc there is 80 minutes of playing time (Crawford n.d.). Think about it: with 80 minutes on a CD, that’s about an average of 12 songs per album. And it’s not like artists are releasing albums every six months. It takes time to write, create, and produce. So once an album does get released, loyal fans and consumers want to listen to it right away. The thought of having to go to the store to buy the album barely crosses our minds, especially those of Millennia and Generation Z. Why waste the energy of buying a physical copy when you could be digitally downloading the album and have it in seconds?
My focus is to research how our culture has shaped and re-shaped the way that the consumer has access to music. I will look into the affect the “album” has on not only the listener, but the artist as well. More specifically, I will dig into the digital distribution of music, the importance (or insignificance) of the track list, and the mixtape/playlist relationship. Who knows, maybe the CD will find a way to climb back up the charts with artists like Tyler the Creator and Kendrick Lamar perfecting the album-dependent listening experience.
Crawford, Awyn. “The Rise of the Compact Disc.” Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. Web. 13 Mar. 2016<http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/the80sareback/2011/02/the-rise-of-the-compact-disc/>.
“History of the CD.” Philips Research. Web. 13 Mar. 2016<http://www.research.philips.com/technologies/projects/cd/>.