Where Have All The CDs Gone?

Klosterman on the death of the CD:

"Whenever writers try to explain the collapse of the music industry, they inevitably blame the labels themselves; they point out how wasteful and inefficient the corporate structure was at places like Elektra and Chrysalis, and how unfair it is to charge kids so many dollars for a disc that costs pennies to make, and that modern consumers have come to the realization that "music longs to be free." This may all be true, but I'm not sure it's a viable explanation for things like huge layoffs at Def Jam. Lots of industries succeed despite being poorly modeled. What happened is this: Young people needed more money to pay for their rising levels of self-imposed debt, so they unconsciously gravitated toward the first technology that provided a cost-saving alternative. Because four-minute digital-song files are relatively small (and thus easily compressed), ripping tracks for free became the easiest way to eliminate an extraneous cost. It wasn't political or countercultural, and it had almost nothing to do with music itself. It was fiscally practical. It was the first, best solution."

For me, someone who used to buy at least two CDs a month, it was a reassignment of money to more valuable commodities, such as food, shelter and clothing. It's one thing to lay out $20 a CD when you're 20 and living with your parents but quite another when you're 30 and have a family to support.

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