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In Defense of the CD

With today’s technology, music is always at our fingertips. It’s easier than ever to turn on any song we want, at any time. We have such easy access to music through our mobile devices— whether it be our music library, Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud or any other streaming platform— but at what cost?  

Over the summer, I was heading to the beach with my dad. We had a two-hour drive ahead of us, so I grabbed a CD that we both liked. I was so excited to take a trip down memory lane with some old music. When I got into the truck, my dad said, “There’s no point in bringing that. This truck doesn’t have a CD player.” I was immediately disappointed, and I asked my dad why he would buy a truck without one. I was shocked that a guy with a basement filled with hundreds of albums would buy a vehicle that wouldn’t allow him to play any of them. “Barely any of the new cars have CD players,” he told me. So, I put the CD away and plugged in the aux cord. 

CD sales in the United States have dropped by 95 percent since the year 2000. Cars are being made without CD players. Vinyl sales are even higher than CD sales. So, what’s the point in spending money on a CD in 2020? 

The way I see it, CDs aren't just a one-time purchase that you’ll never use again. They’re keepsakes.  A few months ago, I was going through the hundreds of CDs in my basement, and I came across my old “Jonas Brothers,” “Camp Rock” and “Hannah Montana” CDs. I had forgotten that I even owned them. There’s something about holding a physical album in your hands that can transport you back in time and make you remember when you first played it. It's feels like you're digging up a time capsule. 

For Christmas and birthdays, my mom, dad, brother and I love to give the gift of music. We all have our own collections of the music that we love. Mine mostly consists of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, John Mayer and my favorite movie soundtracks. My dad loves being able to show us iconic album covers from the music that he listened to when he was younger. There is also something to be said for my mom’s extensive Jimmy Buffet collection. My brother drives around with an entire dresser drawer filled with CDs in the back of his car. He once asked me, “If you like a song, why not see if you like all of the other songs on the album too?”  

CDs Original photo by Kasey Barrow

Many people, including myself, appreciate the artwork and artistic process that goes into making an album. I love everything from the photos inside of the booklet to the design on the disc itself. Booklets allow artists to showcase their vision by displaying behind the scenes photos, letters to their audience and lyrics while diving deeper into the story behind the music.

Digital streaming platforms still allow artists to showcase the visual aspects of their music. For example, Spotify has started using a feature called, “Canvas.”  It allows artists “to create and feature [their] own looping visuals in the ‘Now Playing’ view.” However, these visuals are not something that you can keep forever. 

When Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album, “1989,” fans who bought the physical copy also received polaroid prints with handwritten lyrics on them, helping to embody the year 1989 and match the record's vintage-themed visuals. Little add-ons like this help artists connect with the people that buy their music.  

There’s something rewarding about being able to hold your favorite albums and call them your own. I, for one, will continue buying CDs, in hopes of one day passing them down to my loved ones so they can dive deeper into the stories of the music that I once loved. 

Buy some CDs. Your future self will thank you.