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What’s Lost When the Cloud Replaces CDs

“Recently, while moving my CD collection to new shelving, I struggled with feelings of obsolescence and futility. Why bother with space-devouring, planet-harming plastic objects when so much music can be had at the touch of a trackpad—on Spotify, Pandora, Beats Music, and other streaming services that rain sonic data from the virtual entity known as the Cloud? What is the point of having amassed, say, the complete symphonies of the Estonian composer Eduard Tubin (1905-82) when all eleven of them pop up on Spotify, albeit in random order? (When I searched for “Tubin” on the service, I was offered two movements of his Fourth Symphony, with the others appearing far down a list.) The tide has turned against the collector of recordings, not to mention the collector of books: what was once known as building a library is now considered hoarding. One is expected to banish all clutter and consume culture in a gleaming, empty room.”

Alex Ross ruminates, at The New Yorker, about what’s lost when we no longer buy physical music. His conclusion:

“But only by buying the albums are you likely to help the label stay in business.”

via What’s Lost When the Cloud Replaces CDs.

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  1. I’d rather buy the download directly from the artist/label. Too bad very few labels or artists support that.


    • Many classical labels sell directly now, or through a handful of other classical resellers (because it can be too onerous to sell on their own).


  2. I think the biggest loss is choice. Unless something has changed since I last tried Spotify, I can’t pick which release/mastering of an album I prefer. So, for instance, if I prefer the sound of the 1993 MCA remaster of a Hendrix album over the most recent remastered version I’m out of luck on a streaming (or download) service compared to the ability to track down the version of that release on a physical disc. There’s also the issue of if an artist I like isn’t part of the Spotify/Pandora/other streaming service universe. Also, music is to important to just be a ephemeral experience. I want to be able to access older albums, booklets, playlists without a subscription tied to that access. So while it would be nice to save a little shelf space, until lossless downloads with digital booklets become universal, I’ll keep adding CDs to my collection.


    • To be fair, this only applies to certain types of music that get remastered. But, yes, it is an issue; most times, you can’t tell which version you’re getting via streaming.


      • Also, using Spotify doesn’t prevent you from having a collection of bought and downloaded files, or listening from CDs. I find the different formats complement each other well. I never buy CDs anymore, but I’ve still bought music even though we have two Spotify accounts in our household.


  3. Yes you are correct. Some genres of music don’t have to worry as much about remastering doing more harm than good. What’d be nice if the older versions were availible as well, when possible.


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Writings about Macs, music, and more by Kirk McElhearn