Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Music in a click?

Some of you may have read about my adventure to some of Toronto's used record shops. Recently, I’ve been thinking about why it is important to me to have physical copies of CDs on hand. I always have a ton of fun when I go out and look for new music to buy, and have I’ve come up with a few incentives that I hope will encourage you get out there and make the most out of your music purchases.

Quality: One major problem with digital music files such as MP3s and M4As is that they are compressed. Even files with bit rates as high as 320kbps do not meet the quality of CDs. FLAC files are the highest digital format available, but they are rarely up for sale. FLAC stands for “Free Lossless Audio Codec,” meaning that the files are compressed without any loss in quality. Interestingly enough, when FLACs are found for sale, it’s never somewhere like the iTunes store. Rather they’re offered on the artist’s website, and not all artists will offer such a deal. Thus while good quality does exist in the digital world, it’s a fact that the most convenient way to good quality is to buy the CD, or if you’re looking for even better quality, the vinyl!

Special Features: You miss out on lots of fun things when you purchase music online! A lot of albums now come with stickers, posters, or other goodies. Also, some CDs are embedded with cool technology. Not only does this provide an incentive for purchase, but it provides something interactive for fans on top of the music. Consider Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero -- when it’s warm, the CD changes colour to reveal a binary code that, when translated into ASCII, leads to a website. Pretty hot!

Collectible: Fans are always happy to come across a promo CD or single from their favourite artist. Sure, you can download rare b-sides on Limewire, but that sort of stuff is often not for sale in digital format. If it’s new, perhaps iTunes might offer a certain track for a limited time, but even so, it’s not the same as having that precious, limited edition single in your hands. Plus, if you have a rare collectible, and are lucky enough to meet your favourite artist, what better item to have autographed?

So, next time you think about paying 99 cents for a new song on iTunes, forget it! Physical albums are much more interactive, and, with digital, you’re not getting your money’s worth. There are so many more opportunities when you have the music in your hands!


  1. this is a big issue I feel is relevant in the music world and also at CJAM. a few DJs play from their ipods and though it is extremely easy some feel it is less preferred. CD's are the main format used at the station. It is unbearable to think that the concept of a physical album is becoming less valued with the rise of digital. Album covers are amazing pieces of art and as you mentioned all of the extra stuff you get with an album helps you experience the artists better and collecting music physically instead of electronically is something I do especially for the artists who I support the most. However it is inevitable to accept that the CD will become obsolete as the newest music format but has potential to still be collected and played such as the resurgence of records. I dont use iTunes and actually prefer vinyl - WARM AND FUZZY OVER COLD AND COMPRESSED PLEASE!

  2. Interesting that some of the DJs play music through their iPod... I'd think that wouldn't be allowed because of the quality issues. I agree that collecting music in the physical is so much more exciting! I do use iTunes because it is convenient since I am online very often. I'd love to get a turntable someday so I try out vinyl though!