CDs are finished

Lucas Gonze lgonze@gonze.com
Mon, 8 Apr 2002 14:57:18 -0400 (EDT)


After two weeks of owning an Archos Studio 20 MP3 player, I have decided
that the CD format, along with all other fixed media for music, will be
vaporized by MP3s.  In general this is because MP3s are more useful and
more portable, and not by a little bit.  Once you make the switch from CD
to MP3 you just can't go back.  CDs suck that bad.

Portability:
My medium size MP3 collection is 2 gigs; the Archos has space for 20.
The Archos itself is about the same size as a Walkman cassette player,
until you count the form factor of tapes and CDs.  An MP3 player takes up
exactly the same size whether it holds 20 CDs or 200.  The amount of space
a fixed-media player takes up grows linearly with every CD; more than a
few CDs or tapes isn't doable.

Playlists:
Playlists are so much better than mix tapes that they hardly compare.
The world of fixed-format media has no analog for the combination of DIY
playlists + shuffle + orders of magnitude more storage than any fixed
media device.  This is true despite the fact that playlist techology is
still in a primitive state.  Features like auto-downloading any missing
songs, beat-matching shuffle mode, texture-matching shuffle, adaptive
preferencing, more interesting generative patterns for shuffle mode,
playlist sharing, playlist-in-playlist, etc, are low hanging fruit.  So
playlists aren't just a leap in functionality, they are just getting
started.

Ease of filesharing:
And it's not playlists that are just getting started: the symbiotic
relationship of filesharing and MP3 usage is unmistakable.  Filesharing is
getting more trivial all the time.  USB from your portable to your
friend's computer.  IR between portables.  You can't do that with CDs.

Power:
My portable MP3 player is just as capable as my honking big CD player.
Unlike a Walkman, it's for meat-and-pototoes living room listening as much
as it is for commute time.  Meaning that MP3s are likely to take over both
on the subway and on the couch.

Sticking it to The Man:
Given that the CD industry is visibly intent on hosing the customers, and
that it violently hates MP3s, and that it's bought a bunch of
congresspeople to help, and that music purchases are a way of acquiring
style, what could be a better way to stick it to The Man that to swap to
MP3s?

Price:
Personally most of my MP3s are rips of my own CDs, because that's the only
way to get a good playlist, high quality rips, and a complete collection.
At the same time some of my favorite stuff is downloaded, because finding
the disks would have been painful.  For example, I have some Three Stooges
in my Stooges folder.  But mainly the stuff I didn't pay for is about the
same proportion as it was back in the day when my collection was vinyl +
homemade cassettes from vinyl.

Physicality is a good thing:
...the one thing that CDs have over MP3s is that gooey consumer experience
of going into a music store where a bunch of the really cool kids are
hanging out, and ending up at home unwrapping a lil' bundle of physical
niceness.  There's no analog when it come to downloading stuff, except for
doodads like MP3 players and Winamp Skins.

- Lucas