Friday, September 11, 2009

Buy online, or buy CDs.... Simple choice?

I fought it as long as I could. Yeah, the practice is becoming outdated, and has threatened to become extinct for a few years now. I still enjoy going to a "record store" and purchasing CDs. There's something about looking through the racks of discs on display and finding treasures, both new and old. I can still spend a couple hours in one of the few remaining large CD stores in the area with no problem.

The transition from physical media to digital is more traumatic to us OGs. Going from vinyl to CD was easy. You still had a tangible product in your hands. This is much tougher. About 7 years ago, I transitioned my DJ rig from CDs to my laptop. My entire library was on a hard drive. The convenience was incredible. I could search for a song within seconds. I could switch songs within 8 seconds if necessary. Still, it didn't feel right. It wasn't organic enough. With vinyl or CDs, ideas for programming the next few tracks would come from fanning through the collection. I would change the entire direction of the set based on an album or CD cover. Looking through the database for songs just didn't have the same feel, and to be honest, the process wasn't as much fun.

I recently did a major purchase of recent Jazz releases to bring my library up to date. I hate this phrase, but, given the current economic conditions, I did this all online. I got all the music I wanted, I spent a fraction of what I would've spent, and the convenience was incredible. However, as I started listening to the new acquisitions, something major was missing.

By no more than the third new track I realized what is was. Long established habit and built-in reflex behavior caused me to reach for something that wasn't there; the liner notes. How was I going to see who was on the track, who wrote the track, who arranged the track, and all those other details of major significance to all serious jazz fans. I was devastated. Okay, not completely, but this was going to cause me a lot more work. In order to get the information I sought, I was going to have to go to the website for the artist and hope somebody put the notes there. Worst case, if it was really that important, I may have to go buy the CD!

Industry pundits keep warning of the "death of CDs" based on sales numbers. If you look at the numbers for Hip Hop, Pop, and Rock, the decline in purchase rates are staggering. However, if you look at the numbers for Jazz, Latin, World, and Blues, you'll find the sales numbers are either flat or increasing. The fact that purchasers of those genres are more prone to want liner notes. Why? Those fans are forever trying to learn more about the music. Jazz in particular is more than something to listen to. The music is emotional and those fans feel those emotions. They also have an interest in the members of the featured artist's band. Those musicians may have music worth investigating. Yes, it goes deep with us.

I had to try it, and now i have. Will I do it again? I'm not sure. Meanwhile, I'm looking at the catalog for the company I bought my CD storage units from. I'm going to need another one.

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