Is the CD “dead”? Thom Yorke the latest to pile on

The latest in the debate over music formats comes from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke who opines that it’s not just the physical format that is dying on the vine but the very idea of making “albums” (read: album-length music projects vs. one-offs).

This isn’t new, musicphiles the world over have been debating this point ad nauseum, but Yorke seems to be taking that baby step further. It makes us wonder, does the change in format not only signal the end of the CD (in a word, yes – for myriad reasons) but the end of the idea of a long player, full stop? (don’t know, hope not). The ramifications are huge – liner notes, cover art, thematic linkages between collections of songs – all would be gone in an “albumless world”. And that would suck.

Softsynth consumes music digitally, exclusively (last CD bought: Depeche Mode’s Playing the Angel, 2004). Hundreds upon hundreds of CDs go unlistened-to; many hundreds more cassettes from the 80s and early 90s don’t enjoy any kind of machine that could even play them; it’s all in one convenient place, sortable, portable, flexible, perfect. Yet, “the album” is still king. We don’t want one-offs, we want the cover art, even if it’s just in the little corner of the iTunes interface while the track plays or tinier still on the iPod, and we want the fully realized, multi-track album as envisioned by the artist. A song is a beautiful thing but without context, without a larger picture (soundwise, or conceptually) it’s an empty vessel.

So, is Yorke right? Is the very idea of the multi-track traditional ambum a goner? Is this a good or bad thing? Is Softsynth the only one who will miss the full package? Time will tell…


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