Smile Politely

Music of the Future!

It’s not a controversial statement to say that the end of the CD is near. It may be only a couple years until they completely disappear – one could even argue it’s already happening. Our lives are run on hard drives and music is heard blasting out of white ear buds connected to cellular phones; with everything becoming purely digital there seems to be no real reason to have CDs anymore.

The prospect, however, of not having an easily produced and transported hard copy version of music is frightening. Sure Ipods are great but mix CDs are better. Rhapsody is convenient but it can’t compare to the feeling of ripping off the shrink wrap of a new CD and blasting it out of your car stereo. Music cannot exist purely in the metaphysical plane of cyberspace. There has to be something to come along, other than vinyl, to represent the hard-copy aspect of music. CDs create a sense of ownership, of loyalty and of respect. As a culture that loves music, we can’t lose that. How then, will the industry find a way to continue to get us to go to stores instead of our computers to purchase music? Cassette tapes killed the eight-track and CD’s killed the cassette. What will, when the time comes, replace the CD?

Sandisk, a major producer of portable flash memory cards, thinks they have a solution. This week you can now buy albums from your favorite artists on tiny memory sticks called slotMusic cards. These cards are basic 1 GB microSD memory cards. Albums hosted on this new format will cost $15. This week a roster of artists and albums from all the major labels was announced. Don’t worry, Daughtry and The Pussycat Dolls will be some of the first artists available on this new, exciting format.

Not only will the consumer get their favorite albums on a flash drive, they will also be able to purchase a music player to listen to the flash drives on the go. The Sansa slotMusic Player goes for $20 and will enable you to listen to any of your Coldplay or New Kids on the Block slotMusic cards. You can even get customized artist-inspired music players. Doesn’t get better than that, does it?

Believe it or not, it does get better. This is actually the only cool feature the slotMusic cards could potentially have. Given that each card has 1 GB of space, there’s potential to put a lot more stuff on the card. There is talk of putting music videos and documentaries on future cards but also the master tracks to the albums so fans can remix the music.

Besides that one feature, however, this seems to be the stupidest idea yet. The whole things reeks of Hit Clips – the semi-popular nineties music player that played two minute clips of a Backstreet Boys song with the sound quality of a broken AM radio.

I would like to say “it will be interesting to see how this new technology is received” but I know the response is going to be dismal. Why would you buy a flash drive for as much or more than most CDs cost only to put the mp3s on a computer? It’s like going to a physical storefront version of iTunes, walking to the counter, buying an album and then taking the album home and putting it on your hard drive yourself. It’s pointless.

I really hope the CD doesn’t die. Not that it isn’t a flawed format; I just hope that there continues to be a way for people to get tangible copies of the music they love. Sure if you drop a CD, the scratches may render the disc useless, but it seems so much more haphazard to rely on a laptop to keep such an important thing safe. I love being able to hold one of my favorite albums in my hands and I hope that other people do too. I’d hate to lose that feeling.

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