Music CD’s Are Obsolete – Here’s Their Replacement.

The Music CD is on the brink of going the way of cassette tapes, 8 tracks, and vinyl. The L.A. Times recently found that 48% of teenagers did not buy a single music CD last year. A shocking statistic. So what’s happening? Is the plummet of the CD tied to illegal filesharing/P2P (Peer to Peer) activity as some are speculating? The answer is yes, but not in the delusional way music experts, the media and other major outlets have noted. P2P systems have provided users with extreme utility and democratized the music environment. Where we were previously limited by technology and forced to sleep, snore, or drool through 3 mediocre songs for every fantastic one while juggling a huge binder of CD’s in order to have access to music that fit our mood, P2P technology gave us access to what we wanted…exactly when we wanted it.

While P2P and illegal downloading has raised significant issues, far too little attention has been placed on the music industry. If they had been more flexible/willing to embrace the leading edge of technology instead of trying to force their monopoly-esq system revolving around user abuse and inflexible options on their customers-the growth and success of iTunes, which just passed Best Buy and became the second largest music distributor in the US, wouldn’t be so surprising.

In 2008 expect major change. CD’s were great a few years ago. They offered higher quality, more reliability, were easily transportable, and were high data alternatives to cassette tapes…not to mention the obvious advantage of being recordable. Despite their benefits though, they also had major weaknesses. They scratch easily, are very susceptible to the sun, are not easily re-written (let’s face it CD-RW’s are garbage), and by modern standards are very space limited. They’re also relatively cumbersome. With the advent of the iPod, .mp3 players and sites like iTunes, music media has gone mobile. With the ability to simultaneously hold thousands of songs on a device 1/2 the size of a single CD is it really any wonder that CD’s are not as popular? In fact I’d argue that they only have two utilitarian uses left. The lesser of the two is as a basic delivery system eg: buy it, take it up, burn it. This is especially true now that the music industry has halted their invasive and abusive DRM policies. The second is for use in vehicles. When you go to play music in your car, I believe most people still rely upon/use CDs. Though, with the advent of iPod’s wireless radio converter, even that use is facing a rapid decline.

So – let’s face it. The music CD is essentially dead. The only thing keeping it alive is the lack of a suitable replacement. The music industry has looked at using small DVD’s, while the mainstream audience has just accepted the use of the iPod and it’s alternates as a viable solution. The problem with small DVD’s though is that they still have all of the issues plaguing CD’s. Meanwhile portable .mp3 players like the iPod etc. are great but don’t allow for a global system that provides for the distribution, use, and organization of music.

Here’s a free meal ticket for someone – if you make it a reality don’t forget to send a little love my way – the solution is jump drives. The price for basic USB jump drives has plummeted in the last few years while the technology has catapulted forward. These nearly indestructible devices are small, portable, reliable, computer friendly, allow for the constant editing of content/data and are already developed. While they have been used as a means for data transport and exchange very little attention has been focused on using them for music (why not for video as well?). If you ever watched Babylon 5 you might recall their use of data crystals for video or music – jump drives may not be as cool looking but they are effectively just as efficient.

Where better to start the transition than CD’s last stronghold – the automobile? Ditch the CD player, and instead build in a basic USB port to supplement the radio. Preparing for a road trip? Grab one of your jump drives, toss the music on it that you want (or take an assortment of super cheap mini-jump disks that act like a store bought music CD does now) and simply plug and play. Want to buy a hard copy of a new album? Hit up your local Best Buy and purchase their latest jump drive. In fact, with the current low def-high def radio transition which is occuring, could there be a better time for the transition? As the technology continues to evolve and file sizes continue to grow jump drives – not blueray is the wave of the future. It’s time for a bigger box.

Interested in exploring the idea in greater depth or contacting me about it? Send me an e-mail.