Lorde adds another fatal blow to compact disc – National


When biases appeared for Lorde’s Solar energy album, his first record in four years, something was missing. There was one number for a digital download, another for something called “Music Box” (more on that in a minute) and a vinyl version. There was no mention of a compact disc edition of the album. And for good reason: there won’t be any.

Lorde (well, his label, if we’re being honest) positions the lack of a CD for Solar Power as a green move, a way to distribute music in a more plastic-free way. While fans looking to buy something physical can still purchase the high margin vinyl, they will also be offered the Music Box Edition, a cardboard box with handwritten notes, exclusive photos, additional visual content (what that means) and a download code for a high-quality (lossless? almost certainly) digital version of the disc.

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The download in the music box will include two tracks not available elsewhere as well as “some special surprises”. The plan has already been widely endorsed by organizations who want us to reduce our dependence on plastic. And it’s meant to appease physical record stores that need something in place of a CD to put on the shelves.

Let’s think about this for a moment: a major label release by a world famous artist that won’t be available on CD. Is this a sign of things to come? I would bet on it.

How times have changed. When CDs first hit the market in the spring of 1983, they were positioned as vinyl killers: better sound, totally indestructible (they weren’t, but whatever) and more portable (well, ultimately). . The technology was also touted as a way for the recorded music industry to emerge from the horrific recession that hit the world in the early 1980s.

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After some initial reluctance, the industry joined. So did the general public, in large part because the physical quality of vinyl records in the early 1980s had reached a nadir. The use of recycled vinyl, a consequence of the oil crises of the 1970s, resulted in thinner records with shallower grooves unable to store as much information (especially bass) as LPs released before 1974. They scratched themselves. easily and tended to jump. Additionally, the recycled vinyl contained impurities that affected the overall sound.

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When CDs first appeared, we were eager to get rid of vinyl records, even if it meant buying back our music libraries at prices significantly higher than what we paid for the original vinyl records.

Over the next two decades, we bought, bought and bought, even though the promised drop in CD prices never really happened. Money flowed like water in the recorded music industry. And there you have it, it was good.

Then came Napster and his file sharing brothers. Apple then came to the rescue with the iTunes music store in 2003, saving the music industry from total digital destruction. Five years later, Spotify went live, ushering in the streaming age with an endless supply of free music.

It took the recorded music industry a while to figure out streaming, but when it finally did, it managed to extricate itself from a deadly downward spiral of revenue that began around the turn of the millennium. . Money isn’t quite what it was before Napster in 1999, but overall everyone on the label side seems to be very happy with the direction things are going.

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In fact, after desperately defending their business model of selling plastic, record companies would like CDs to be gone tomorrow. And we are moving in that direction.

As more than 70 percent of all recorded music revenue now comes from streaming, there is an increasingly reduced need to release music on CDs. Think about all the manufacturing, warehousing, shipping, distribution, and accounts payable issues that would go away overnight if there were no more CDs. It is only a matter of time before the compact disc, once the international currency of music, occupies the same niche as vinyl records.

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In fact, CDs can drop below this level sooner than you might think. In 2020, several territories, including the United States and the United Kingdom (the number one and three music markets, respectively) reported that the dollar value of vinyls sold exceeded that of compact discs. This had not happened since at least 1991. Canada might have seen the same if it had not been for the supply chain shortages resulting from a factory fire that destroyed the major part of the global capacity to create lacquer masters essential for disc pressing. However, we seem to have recovered from it.

Here in Canada, year-to-date CD sales are down another eight percent. Half of the past year, Canadians have bought barely a million new CDs. And that’s all the headlines. Meanwhile, vinyl – which, let’s remember, sells for a hefty price tag – is up 56%, with nearly 450,000 copies. And it’s just a new vinyl. This number does not include used discs sold and traded in stores and online.

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Lorde’s decision came as no surprise to industry watchers. Over the past couple of years, it has become common for an artist to release the digital version of an album weeks or even months before any sort of physical release. This allowed the label to assess the success of the album and determine exactly how many physical units needed to be produced. This dramatically reduced the number of returns from record retailers.

Again, the CD is wrong, probably never. But the days of expecting every new release to be available as a compact disc are over.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to the Alan podcast on the current history of new music now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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