The Case Against CDs 2

An Op-Ed in the NY Times on Saturday finds writer Verlyn Klinkenborg singing the praises of a long-forgotten album from 1970 by The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood.

“I heard ‘Martha’s Madman’ in my head and I did what I usually do. I went to the iTunes Music Store. Nothing. Same at Amazon. So I walked down to the barn, where all my old albums are stored, and dug out my vinyl copy of The Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, which is now sitting on my desk. I no longer have the equipment to play it.”

His point is to lament that some artists are considered too marginal to be merited a CD reissue. But a sane person reading his story would draw the following conclusion instead. Namely:
WHY do you no longer have the equipment to play it? Because you threw out your record player? Why? Were you (incorrectly) informed that CDs were inherently better than the original LPs? Did you (incorrectly) assume that all the albums you personally deemed worthy would be reissued on CD? If so, is that not a particularly blind act of faith in the capitalist system? Were you really such a sheep that you couldn’t hold on to a record player once the CD player became the predominant means of musical communication? Have you, as a classic baby boomer rock fan, really not been able to find a store that would sell you a new record player over subsequent years? And why then did you hold on to a barn full of records if not to your actual record player? Why not sell those off, too and be done with it? Welcome to a pet peeve: people who acknowledge that vinyl records have a greater aesthetic/artistic value than CDs but nonetheless disposed of their record players. Baa!

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6 Comment(s)

  1. 23 August, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    I have Returning to Bedlam on vinyl (great album) and a battered eighties vintage Panasonic turntable stashed in a cupboard underneath a myriad of… things…. once a year or so I break it out. Now surely a musician/producer/project studio owner should posess a Technics you mutter; well truth be told any spare cash goes into monitors or preamps for said studio, or clothes and playstations for the offspring, let alone airfares ‘home’ etc etc… I dunno where I am going with this, just that in a perfect world I’d have a perfect turntable, but as I’m not a DJ (perish the thought!) I don’t.

    Also, the net is supposed to broaden the availability of music right, well I hope so, believe so, but it is worrying that itunes, the dominant download marketer so often doesn’t have that marginal release, and that ‘record stores’ are no longer stocking anything but the obvious catalogue from even well-know artists (Miles Davis for example), that is if the ‘record store’ still exists. And yeah, I understand the need to diversify and carry crafts or pottery or run a laundry to keep the record store afloat, adapted to the ‘new society’, but boy, tough for the guy who really loves music and was just so excited to start a business dealing with what really fires him up, and being willing to tolerate all the other nonsense that comes with running a business for that reason…. alone.

  2. 24 August, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    I had to go through over 300 spam postings just to find yours in the middle!
    What I take from your post is this: At least you’ve held on to a turntable. (And you don’t have a barn full of LPs, least not last I checked!) I don’t think any of us who produce any kind of ‘art’ have the right to expect that ‘art’ to be released in whatever medium becomes available, especially if our ‘art’ proves to be of only marginal popularity. What we can hope for though, is that people who appreciate that ‘art’ will find a way to share it. The Times guy VErnyn is sharing his enthusiasm for the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood and that’s a good thing; more people probably know about the act because of his piece than if he’d simply held on to his record player. But my point still holds.

    In the meantime, I do believe that the future of business is selling less (units) of more (product), and if that means people butrning individual CDs on demand, so be it.



  3. 24 August, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    Personally, I like the idea of creating a lot more music-product, and that it’s for a more limited, specialised audience is fine, nice, good even… I’m getting to know my audience better, and also this is closer to a traditional music MO, where one performs for a few, really feeling the atmosphere in the room, responding to and flowing with it, creating something in the moment truly appropriate…

    I hope this one makes it through the spam! In the meantime, back to the mix…


  4. Jamie Robertson

    25 August, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    I think there are more obvious and better criticisms to be made of CD’s. The emergence of the CD and death of vinyl as a mainstream format has greatly reduced the importance of the single. Long gone are the days when bands would release two singles between an album in addition to the necessity to have at least, two or three singles from an album. The CD gave the record companies a massive incentive to re-release old music as opposed to investing in new talent. And perhaps worst of all seventy-plus minutes of space has allowed so many mediocre albums to be released. Innumerable are the albums whose quality would have been greatly enhanced by the lopping off of the four weekest songs. Tony’s review of the new Spearhead album is a great case in point.

  5. 26 August, 2006 at 4:53 pm


    Thanks for the post. This subject always gets people going and I’m happy to see us discussing things. All your points are correct, and you’re right that they’re ‘more obvious’ and ‘better’ criticisms of CDs. They’re ones I’ve made many a time… Fact, I first made the point in print about people filling up CDs with 60-70 minute albums and then taking longer between album releases about 15 years ago! Fortunately, the likes of Spearhead aside, we’ve seen some much shorter albums again in recent years, and if The Strokes should be remembered for one thing, it shoudl be for spearheading (ouch!) that revival. Me, I’m happy with around a dozen songs, approximately 45 minutes from an album. The occasional electronic album has worked well at a longer length because of the nature of the music, but more than 50 minutes and I start getting bored.



  6. 1 September, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    Not sure that reducing the importance of the single is such an amazingly awful thing. Especially when arguably singles live on as individual downloads.

    One of the potential moans about the downloading thing is that ‘some’ artists like to sequence their albums, i.e. a certain order, thread running through, build etc–all rendered irrelevant when buying individual downloads. And who hasn’t unexpectely come across that neglected obscure track deep in the middle of side B that is absolutely brilliant!

    Also, although the CD may have given the record companies opportunity to re-release old material instead of nurturing the new, I don’t think the CD can be held responsible for the morality (or otherwise) of music business practice—that’s a human question, not a material one.


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