North·Blog

A stack of CDs beats streaming when it comes to music

Dave White of CBC Yukon's Airplay argues CDs are the better bet when it comes to both rekindling memories and renumerating bands.

CBC Yukon radio host Dave White says digital downloads and streaming just not the same as holding an album

Dave White of CBC Yukon's Airplay argues CDs are the better bet when it comes to both rekindling memories and renumerating bands. (Richard Hewitt/Flickr)

It's been raining a lot in the Yukon. Like, a lot. As in, I wonder if I should look online for ark plans raining.

So I've been looking for stuff to do indoors, and the other day I hit upon one of my favourite leisure pursuits: re-arranging my CDS. As I debated such issues as to whether to separate the new Iron Maiden cds from the older NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) discs, and pondered which albums to place in the highly prominent Records I Want My Music Nerd Friends To See If They Come Over (RIWMMNFTSIFCO) pile, I came to the realization that I really, really like having CDs.

My CDs come from all kinds of places; record stores from Halifax to Seattle to Austin, box sets from Amazon and market stalls in Camden. If I see a band I like, I try to buy the CD at the show, whether it's a club gig or a music festival.

I like having the thing in my hands, listening to the music and turning over the cover brings me back to that night in Preservation Hall in New Orleans, or whatever.

Which I realize makes me sound like a cranky old man in love with old technology.

I've purchased plenty of songs and CDs on iTunes, and while I appreciate the convenience it's just not the same. Now they tell me streaming services are the way to go, just a few bucks a month gives you access to more music than you can imagine. That's attractive, obviously, but somehow it's not the same.

I could cite moral reasons for this. A journalist named David McCandless has gathered data that shows how little artists make when their work is purchased online. For an artist to make U.S. minium wage they have to sell 105 copies of their CD a month. They have to sell 547 albums on iTunes, or 5.478 single track downloads on Amazon, iTunes or Google play.

They would need almost a million plays a month on Apple Music to make minimum wage, 1.1 million plays on Spotify. Which basically means an independent artist — you know, the ones that actually create the music you want to listen to — are giving away their work. You can check out his website Information is Beautiful is you want to dig deeper.

For years the record industry told music fans home taping was killing music, and then Napster was killing music. Turns out the record industry was killing itself.

But there is a bright spot. According to new research, music fans are turning away from free downloads and piracy and buying stuff again. It's one of the reasons the old fashioned vinyl record is back in vogue.

So that's the moral argument, but for me, it still comes down to having the thing in my hands. As I was re-arranging my CDs the other day, I came across things I hadn't played in years, stuff I had even forgotten about, and throwing that on took me back.

So stream away, youngster, I'll be on the couch reading the liner notes to The Red Headed Stranger and wondering if it's cool enough to put on the Record Nerds Are Visiting pile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave White is the host of Airplay, CBC Yukon's afternoon radio show. He's lived in the Yukon since 1989, more or less.

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