When we recently caught up with Brighton’s Resident Music – winners of the Independent Music Retailer at the Music Week Awards 2019 – their co-founder Natasha Youngs said something that really stuck with me. It concerned the fate of the CD.
“Industry and external forces have quickened its demise,” she explained. “New cars don’t have CD players, laptops/PCs don’t have disc drives anymore and many artists and labels are not seeing the demand for CDs and don’t see them as relevant: they’re not sexy, they're an old story. We seem determined as an industry to constantly reinvent and move on, even when we don’t need to. It’s a real shame. The formats can all co-exist if we don’t deliberately sideline them.”
I believe Youngs is very much on to something here, and it’s worth noting that some rather huge artists are fighting to make sure the CD can co-exist in 2019 and beyond.
Swift has made a CD package that will likely prove an essential fan purchase, even for those who lean more towards streaming or vinyl
Take Taylor Swift, for example. Sure, her new album Lover is available as a standard CD version, but there’s also not one, not two, not three but four different deluxe editions. While Swift’s blockbuster album 1989 had a special edition featuring voice notes from the star plus Polaroid pictures, the most expensive of Lover’s CD deluxe editions goes even further. It includes the album on CD, two bonus audio memos from Swift’s songwriting sessions, a unique set of her journal entries, handwritten lyrics, archived photos, a poster, blank journal pages and a lyric book. That’s to say nothing of the box-set which adds in a tote bag, a phone stand, postcards and a temporary tattoo sheet. In other words, Swift has made a CD package that will likely prove an essential fan purchase, even for those whose natural proclivities may otherwise lean more towards streaming or vinyl.
And Swift’s not alone in this endeavour, either. Returning prog-metal sensations Tool are releasing a deluxe edition of their new record Fear Inoculum with a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, a two watt speaker and a 36-page booklet that retails at £79.99. That’s to say nothing of BTS’ numerous special editions or Iron Maiden’s ongoing reissue series including a highly-collectible, album-specific figurine of their mascot Eddie, plus a sew on patch.
We have come a long, long way from the time when ‘deluxe edition’ effectively translated as, ‘Crap bonus track tacked on at end,’ or, ‘Behold, a slightly different cover!’ Hence, when I see shelves of new CDs available only in vanilla jewel case packages, it not only seems like a real missed opportunity, it also feels like a failure of imagination.