Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News today posted this article on his blog, making the radical suggestion that the majors should seriously consider ditching CD’s as a major sales format, and concentrating on digital, thereby divesting themselves of the whole distribution network necessary to sell them. If they just stopped pressing CD’s all the shops, warehouses, trucks, box packers and smiling counter staff would suddenly become obsolete, bad for the truck drivers, and bad for the record companies in the short term, as they’d lose that income stream – but would such a ruthless move be good for the majors in the long run?
Looking at the storage formats that have waxed and waned over the history of recorded music, the eventual demise of compact discs seems inevitable; from wax cylinders to minidiscs, everything is replaced by a more convenient alternative. Even though this shift from physical to digital is a big one for the human mind to wrap itself around “But where is my actual music? My computer looks just the same as before” This will hold true of the CD just as it did of the horse-drawn carriage; people will stand around scratching their heads for a while and bemoaning the loss of work for farriers and the fall in the price of oats, but eventually we’ll all get used to having our music stored in a cufflink, or beamed into our brains from our mobile phone or whatever else is in store for us, and the CD will become what vinyl is now – a charming reminder of a less convenient, more physical age. Those companies that accept the decline of physical media and look towards maximising the advantages of digital music distribution (minescule distribution costs, instant worldwide availability, no cumbersome physical infrastructure etc. etc.) will be the ones that dominate the new era, and those that keep clinging to the old technology, will lose out in the future, no matter how strongly entrenched the current hardware seems.