The Ending Of The Last Track

The end of an era

In February, we reported that Best Buy would be pulling the plug on CD sales. Well, it’s official, you can no longer get CDs at one of the major US retailers.

According to Billboard, Best Buy’s U.S. CD sales generally average about $40 million per year, though the sales of the format were down 18.5% last year in the United States. Best Buy still currently has a vinyl section, but the corporate giant is planning on phasing that out as well.

That leaves very few major retailers left to buy actual physical product. There’s Target (who are also considering dropping CDs), WalMart, FYE (which seems to be metal’s biggest supporter in the retail space) and then Hot Topic. Of course, there are independent music stores, which are still doing their best to keep the format alive, but even those are dying out.

CDs were around for 35 years and were on top at least half of that time. When you think about it, that’s a really good run. And they’ll likely remain the last physical medium for music.

The car stereo was the last refuge of the CD for me, and I got a new aftermarket installed last year and now almost everything runs through my phone and Bluetooth. Which is good, because I was struck by how terrible the interface for the car player is.

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8 thoughts on “The Ending Of The Last Track

  1. I just bought some CDs at Amoeba Music in SF. Probably one of the few independent music stores still standing.

    What I wonder is if and when the death of a physical medium for recorded music will destroy the concept of an album. It used to be that people would only buy individual songs or a small collection of songs but the 1960s marked the start of the L.P. and eventually thematic records with a serious of songs, some of which would become the radio songs or singles. Others not. But if we are going to streaming is there a need for albums? Not really.

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    • I’m actually OK with the death of the album, I almost never buy one because I rarely want more than one or two songs off a given LP or EP. I’ve often felt most LPs were full of filler tracks that the producers tossed in just so they could justify the cost of the album when consumers really just wanted those few popular tracks*.

      *I remember the bitching the labels were doing when cassingles were first coming out, or single track digital purchasing.

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      • There is a lot of interesting scientific information that shows people generally like listening to the same songs over and over again. One of the ways popular music works so well is that it plays on this love for catchy repetition!

        I’m generally the same way but it is usually 4-5 songs I really like and the rest are okay.

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    • One of the reasons for the rise of the vinyl record even after being replaced technologically, CD’s and MP3’s etc, is that it takes, due to the mechanics of listening to it, a focus on the music that you cannot get from other methods of recording sound. It forces you to listen to 4-5 songs and then get up and flip the record. Storing it, you need to put it in a sleeve to protect it. And making sure that the needle on the turntable is good, that there is no stretch in the belts (unless direct drive) and all the other aspects that make it an active experience. As opposed to streaming music, which just takes a whim to listen to a song.

      Will this make the listening to albums more of a hobbyist act, not unlike buying hardback books or driving a stick? I would argue it already is.

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    • I’m no great music guru, but I like the idea of albums. Some, as you point out, have themes or tell some sort of story by their songs’ content and arrangement. And while in the Age of the Album I, like Oscar, sometimes found myself buying an entire record or CD for just one or two songs, sometimes I’d actually grow to like the other songs.

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  2. When I was in college back in the dark ages, sometimes we’d dedicate a Friday Night to sitting and listening to an entire album, start to finish, then we’d discuss it.

    We weren’t in a place where we were dating a whole lot.

    We hit stuff like Tommy and Quadrophenia and Electric Ladyland. We discussed how one song evolved and morphed into the other and how some albums were just a mishmash of songs but some were brilliant at taking the listener through an emotional journey. Emotional peaks and troughs and albums that closed on a resolute note vs. an open or hopeful one.

    Ah, well.

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  3. I guess I’m as wistful as I’m supposed to be about the demise of the CD, but I’m not very sorry to see it go. To me, at least, the sound on the CD’s seemed a bit antiseptic and “canned’ in a way that the sound on, say, vinyl or cassettes did not (again, at least to my ears). And frankly, CD’s are too fragile. They too easily scratch and skip. I suppose that’s true of vinyl as well.

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