Digital divide

Why digital downloading is overrated

The sales of CDs have plummeted hard and long during the descent into the new digital age, nearly crippling the sales to half of what they were in their heyday. The new and old generations of listeners have adapted to the legal and illegal downloading of music using iTunes or the infamous file sharing site LimeWire. Lazy, selfish consumers are ruining the music industry and are making it harder for musicians to get a modest day’s pay. Meanwhile, CDs are dissolving like cassette and vinyl records under the weight of musical evolution. Their breed might make comebacks every now and then, but they will never flourish like they once did.

Yet, I find the pros of purchasing CDs far outweigh the benefits of downloading digital music. Here’s why:

One argument against CD sales is the contention that CDs are severely overpriced, being that it costs less than a dollar to manufacture one. But people tend to forget the middleman and his greedy hands, and of course the money to keep the band healthy. Buying CDs helps keep the band supplied with vitamins and funded enough to continue on with another album. While digitally downloading albums usually costs more or less depending on the album, illegally downloading albums gives the band nothing. Though it affects big name mainstream artists in minor ways, it takes a huge bite from less successful bands barely making it on independent record labels. And with the choice of paying 10 bones for an album or getting it for the price of “free 99,” the choice is a matter of ethics. And illegal downloading often is rewarded not only with free tracks, but also the greatest hits of viruses.

I have my own selfish reasons for preferring CDs. I enjoy having a copy of the music that I can hold in my arms like a newborn baby, as opposed to the digital booklet I can only admire from an electric portal. And unlike digital downloading, when my computer starts smoking like an old toaster, I still have a reserve of my music that doesn’t disappear off my hard drive in a flash.

But this musical wisdom doesn’t apply to every situation. The only times I break down and use iTunes is in an act of desperation, either when a certain album or song is not available on CD or 8 track or when an album is ridiculously priced at the store and on Amazon, and iTunes provides a fair-priced safe haven for that album.

The new music generation of listeners tend to think working a tape deck is akin to using an abacus. Any format of music, especially when it’s low cost and/or free, on vinyl or tape is an old art and usually collectable, and people are dumping these jewels in garage sales or thrift stores. Its open season for the underground music geeks at such swap meets. But when the generation is spoon-fed Lil Wayne like motor oil, it’s no wonder nobody wants to hear the other tracks on the album. People can download all the neat little songs they want, but when the Armageddon comes and crashes all their hard drives, and they shake their fists to the sky, I’ll be in the underground bunker with all of my collected CDs, tapes and vinyl, waiting for the end with my tunes that will be around like cockroaches for all time.