It is hard to believe that it has been more than a decade since ITunes launched in 2001. It’s humble beginning as a glossier ‘front’ for Apple’s very own Windows Media Player, soon transformed into a formidable entity that has threaten to crush music as we know it, in its CD form.
The Media player had initially been developed and marketed as a digital library for all our Compact Discs to be stored on. Perhaps harmony between ITunes and CD’s had been Apple’s first intention. Twenty years ago, shops such as Virgin Megastores, and even Woolworths, stood proud alongside independent record stores. You couldn’t walk ten feet down a British high-street without coming into contact with a Compact Disc.
In recent years however, the formerly thriving scene has changed irrevocably for the worse. In 2007, Virgin was sold and rebranded as Zavvi, only for the chain to fold in 2008. Did this correlate with ITunes’ ever growing success? In a single day, on December 25th 2007, ITunes sold a staggering 20 million songs. How would the high-street ever manage to compete with that?
The sad truth is that it didn’t. ‘Singles’ stopped being stocked when it became clear that they were no longer financially viable; and in turn ITunes became a haven for one-track-downloaders who could pick and choose their music from a seemingly infinite library. By the middle of the recession we had only one ‘mega’ record store left on the high-street and even the monopolising HMV, could not fight off the online competition in the end; as it too was threatened with closure. Although most of its stores have been salvaged, the brand still has divided opinion. Some argued that it wouldn’t be missed; citing the ease of downloading from ITunes as the reason for its obsoleteness.
Meanwhile those in favour lamented its clinical atmosphere. Unlike independent record shops or HMV, ITunes has a perfect crossover appeal as it stocks everything from the mainstream Adele, to the lesser-known A Day To Remember. It’s easier for up-and-coming artists to follow the digital route; and go global (or at least viral) as a result. One could go as far to say that ITunes could effectively kill the Compact Disc in years to come. We only have to look at our past of dying cassettes and VCR’s to get a glimpse into the seemingly digital future.
Without a doubt, ITunes brought about the demise of the physical ‘single’, but does the Compact Disc still have legs as an ‘album’?
Apple’s online store has put pressure on acts to deliver catchier ‘hits’, designed to capture the attention span of a generation who more often than not; just dont have the time, money, or patience to appreciate an album in full. As tastes change, we rarely see artists who make great ‘albums’ do as well as those songwriters who are capable of delivering great ‘singles’. The Charts focus on the latter alone; and so I have no doubt that ITunes will overtake sales of physical editions of ‘popular’ releases in the near future, if it has not done so already.
However, as a passionate music fan, I find that there is nothing more rewarding than collecting the physical copies from the bands that I love. CD’s are cheaper than vinyl and more tangible than a digital music library dependent on the reliability of one’s laptop. Compact Discs allow me to absorb the music as it was intended (without Shuffle Culture) and gives me something solid to hold onto in this online era.
What legacies can we leave with our ‘rented’ MP3 files? None. That is why, despite the competition that the unassuming CD faces, I believe that owning hard copies of music will live on. Here’s to the new ‘vinyl’.
Image Source : DailyBuggle.com
Written by India Thomas