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Every year at Christmas, I usually end up with at least one gift voucher for a music store such as HMV or Virgin Megastores. Since my early teenage years I took great pride in walking in and perusing every album on the shelves. My eyes could look for easily over an hour, finally deciding on the perfect way to get value for money. Buying an album has always meant a lot to me. It makes me feel like an enthusiast, a part of the music community and a supporting fan of that particular artist. A gift voucher was like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. Until I was old enough to have a part time job, I would cherish it with my life.


Once I was home from the record store, I would put the CD on and lie on my bed so that I could listen from start to finish. During that time I’d be able to take in the artwork of the album case and read through the booklet with complete content. This regime obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but I feel that for the past few decades the ideal of a physical collection has been really important. Whether it is vinyl, cassette or CD.

This year though, I opened my card to find an iTunes voucher inside. I was instantly elated, having only recently started using the Apple software to store my music collection. I had never really looked at the iTunes Store before and wasn’t really sure how it worked. My brother explained to me how I would go about it and once I reflected I was slightly disappointed. I had thought that maybe I would walk into the Apple store on the High Street, where they would have their own choice of records and I could continue my tradition. No, instead I would be doing this online. As I booted up the software I began clicking through a few pages and felt my heart sank.

The fact that I had received a gift for Christmas was something I should be eternally grateful for, and I was. However, knowing that I was going to be spending that money on a file, something I wouldn’t be able to touch or keep on a bookshelf felt wrong. Is this the way all of our music collections will be going? Rather than going out to the independent music stores, we will just be sitting at a screen ordering with the click of a button? Illegal file sharing may be becoming ever prominent for youths, but for those of us that still buy records the future is already arriving. Rather than flicking through cases, we’ll be scrolling through music applications.

For some this digitalisation may not be an issue, but I’ll miss having an ever-growing CD collection. Seeing the independent shops close and even the larger chains such as Zavvi go down is a saddening thought on the shift of our industry. With CD sales decreasing year on year, it will be interesting to see how artists will continue to source their income. Does Apple give artists the same profit chunk as traditional labels did? I’m not sure. Regardless, it seems that soon the CD collection will be just like Vinyl. A retro niche, overshadowed by the next technological step.

December 2018
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