Wednesday, January 06, 2016

"A post-format world"

"More than ever, how we listen to music can seem just as revealing as what we’re listening to", ventures Pitchfork's Joel Oliphint in this article about the bewildering array of formats currently available.

Personally speaking, I'm one of those stubbornly "hanging on to CDs", that "dogged ... format that has refused to exit gracefully or quietly while ceding the throne to digital". Oliphint has a point if the "throne" refers to the zeitgeist; according to recent figures from the BPI, however, "CDs are proving to be more resilient than analysts had thought" and "remain the dominant format". I would no doubt have been a vinyl fetishist if I'd been born earlier, but CDs are at least a tangible format that incorporates artwork and liner notes.

Many of my favourite albums are on slowly degrading copied cassettes, but (like Oliphint), as a listener rather than a musician I find it hard to see a great deal of value in that format and its current cult status aside from pure nostalgia.

I've tentatively dipped my toe in the water with iTunes and now Spotify (only ever on a laptop, though - never a phone), but when it comes to instantly accessing new music I usually head to YouTube. However, I always feel slightly guilty for repeated listens (such as of the Courtney Barnett album, which I haven't yet bought), probably for the reason that Oliphint suggests: I'm uncomfortable merely being a listener rather than a fan actively supporting the artist in question.

Given that the current vogue for cassettes will no doubt pass, I wonder whether CDs will regain an aura of cool. Probably not until their sales start to seriously dwindle, but when that day comes, I'll enjoy being a stopped clock telling the right time.

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