Music Features

In Defence of CDs

The CD is under attack. Oh yes. It may seem dramatic, but it's true. There's another megabucks high-concept Apple ad campaign, a new MP3 player from Sony, and people have started sneering at passers-by for having the wrong coloured headphones. Insanely, otherwise sensible people are paying minions to copy their music onto their laptops.

I'm no technophobe, and I won't even rise to accusations of being a Luddite (actually look up the Luddites first - far more progressive than they were ever given credit for), but it's important that our enthusiasm for digital music doesn't see the little silver disc fall into disuse with VHS and pagers. Some of my reasons are selfish, for sure. I'm of the age when music collecting started with tapes, which were snarly and unreliable. But my collection - and I imagine yours too - didn't really take off until the purchase of a first CD player. I'm pretty sure this goes for my entire generation.

I've also got altruistic reasons to love the disc. The CD is physical, and can easily become a fetish, inside and outside its case. Because it is a thing rather than a collection of zeroes and ones, you get a lot that doesn't come with a download. Art work, for a start. Meanwhile, the size and shape ensure practicality and stackability, so you can collect and show off your CDs without needing a Peel-style extension. They're also portable, like tapes, but don't get chewed up. And, provided you don't play post-pub frisbee or use them as beer mats, they don't scratch.

Away from the physical disc, price is important too. The CD is affordable - a couple of week's pocket money, or, later in life, a round of drinks sacrificed - yet expensive enough to display commitment and ensure a reasonable cut for your favourites. A CD is also the right length of time for a good read, a long lunch, or a couple of beers. And I'll be giving away a certain touch of domesticity by owning up to seeing the insurability of CDs as an important part of settling down a little. At a more abstract level, it's worth concentrating on the sound, which as less compressed, sounds bigger and, well, more than minidisks, MP3s and their ilk.

Ok, so I'll admit, if not Luddism, then maybe I'm suffering from the shock of the new. Yes, downloads are an effortless route to new music, and the Internet a fantastic tool for plugging into the sounds of the future. But too many white headphones under Gucci oblong glasses and over Lewin shirts perhaps give the game away. There is, in the i-pod's ascendancy, a victory of fashion over music, of the flitter over the fan. I am no more convinced that i-pod users are dedicated music lovers or gig goers than I am that U2 are gods. Prejudice aside though, there's a simple hurdle I can't get over. Can you imagine leaving your entire CD collection in the back of a cab?