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Will Digital Distribution Completely Replace CDs?

By ed209 in MLP
Fri Nov 24, 2000 at 04:44:42 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)

I just saw an article on Loudwerkz about a recent poll conducted for Creative Labs regarding the future of online music. Apparently, a good chunk of the results pointed to the fact that users believe CDs may be completely obsolete by the year 2005.

I personally find it hard to believe that digital distribution (in whatever form it eventually takes) will ever completely eclipse the sale of traditional physical media, but it's certainly an interesting (and debatable) issue... I'm curious what K5 users think about this.


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Will Digital Distribution Completely Replace CDs? | 21 comments (21 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
polls? (3.80 / 5) (#1)
by radar bunny on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 11:43:13 AM EST

Ok, its a poll done by a company who makes portable mp3's. So, the people voting are most likely heavey users of these kind of products. And, even then, only 37% of people under 25 beleived this. And 33% of current Internet users thought they would have a "virtual record collection" by 2005.

OK, First how sientific was this poll? Was it just posted on their web page like a Kuro5hin poll?
What about people over 25 who ae probably more grounded and realistic in their opions of what the future holds. Since those numbers were left out then wouldn't that lead us to beleive that its probably very low?
Wasn't it is as late as the early seventies that people thought we'd have colonies on the moon in 30 years? How many of these other "predictions" haven't ever panned out.

finally why would we think Cd's are going to be obsolete any time soon when cassette tapes aren't even obsolete yet? Hell, some people still love 45's.

an over 25 yr old (none / 0) (#13)
by linklater on Fri Nov 24, 2000 at 06:54:40 AM EST

(bit of a ramble, be warned)

While I think mp3 is a very valuable new format for music I think it will not dominate the mainstream music market for a number of years yet, if at all. It suffers the same problems that all media suffer - it's own unique little annoyances.

Sure, protable mp3 players are pretty cool, and they are even becoming available with enough storage to hold a lot of data, but they lack the very thing that CD's (and tapes/LP's) have - physical presence. The reason I have not bought a portable mp3 player yet is because I can't be bothered downloading new files from my PC whenever I fancy a change - it's easier to have a look-see at my CD collection and then just grab a CD for my portable CD player. MP3 requires me to sit down, turn the screen on, boot up the transfer software, sift through files, check the sizes, wait for the transfer to stop, close down the app, and turn the screen off.

When I buy some new stereo equipment I don't need to 'update' or move all my CD collection to use it - I just grab it and slot it in. When I buy a new PC I've got to think about transferring all the mp3 files to the new kit - another bind. I also think mp3 lacks the 'browsability' of real CD's - wooly term I know, but searching through a directory of files doesn't have that same feeling as sitting in front of an open fire with a glass of wine, dim lights and a loved one, going back through all those old tunes you grew up with. I dunno, maybe mp3's are too 'clinical' ?

Ultimately, I don't think that mp3 has had enough penetration into the 'real world' to take off for a long time yet. When I asked my music-crazed but non-techie older brother (33yrs) if he had heard of mp3 he said.

'I've heard of mp3 but I don't know what it is...'

This, from a man with 800+ CD's.

OK, ramble over... 8)

---- 'Who dares not speak his free thought is a slave.' - Euripides
[ Parent ]

A few years down the line (none / 0) (#15)
by leviathan on Fri Nov 24, 2000 at 10:05:42 AM EST

…and your MP3 player (or whatever) has a mobile 'net link. You've eliminateld the PC altogether, and you don't even have to be at home to 'grab a CD'.

I think this will be the turning point in electronic distribution. The populist version of this probably won't be free, and probably won't be called MP3 or anything so techie (whatever it actually is under the hood) but the sole advantage CDs will then have is physical permanence.

It'll never replace CDs completely, as vinyl is still going stong, and someone out there is buying those tapes I see on shelves, but it could easily be the preferred form IMHO.

I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

Heard it before... (none / 0) (#16)
by loner on Fri Nov 24, 2000 at 04:31:18 PM EST

When CDs were first coming out, I heard very similar arguments over and over again, comparing CDs and vinyl.

"But CDs are too 'clean', they don't have that 'real' feeling you get from listening to vinyl."

"But CDs are too small, you can't grab them with both hands and put them on the turntable and put the needle on at whatever point in the song you like. You just shove the CD into your stereo and push a button, where is the fun in that?"

"Who's going to buy a CD when you get these big beautiful packaging with each vinyl record? There is more to a record than just the music, there is also the accompanying works of art and other material that goes on the jacket. CDs are too small for that."

And yes there were thousands of 30+ year olds, hell even 20 somethings, with huge vinyl collections who swore they'd never buy a CD, but CDs became mainstream nonetheless, for one reason or another: convenience, modernization, marketing, whatever. Sure there is still a minority that hangs on to vinyl, but the majority have embraced CDs.

Likewise the CD will be replaced by mp3s or some similar format. The question is do we want to put our energy in fighting the change yet again, while the record companies triple the price of each song when we're not looking, or do we want to embrace the new technology and concentrate on making the record companies do it our way, cheaply and fairly?

[ Parent ]

Another article on it (3.00 / 3) (#2)
by Arkady on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 11:53:05 AM EST

Check out this article at The Register for another jaundiced view of that poll.


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Not for a long while... (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by spiralx on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 11:55:25 AM EST

Eventually physical media as a whole will disappear apart from archival purposes, and people will store everything online, but that day is still a long way off, perhaps even 50 or a 100 years off. For now, physical media is just a lot more convenient than digital media in a lot of ways, and it doesn't rely on people having a net connection.

As for CDs being obsolete, well given the current and ongoing wrangles over formats for things like DVD Audio and SACD, I very much doubt they'll be obsolete in that time span. Plus, given the user base CDs enjoy, it will take companies years to get customers to get to the point where they don't need a CD version...

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey

Probably only as a distribution method (2.00 / 1) (#4)
by Kastor on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 12:15:42 PM EST

I think with cd burners continuing to fall in price we'll see cd's being created on the users computer to hold the music. since who would want to lose their collection on a hard disk failure

... (3.33 / 3) (#5)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 12:33:51 PM EST

How many years did it take for tapes to become obsolete? There are really only two obsticals to mp3s totally replacing CDs:

(1) The record companies don't like mp3s.

(2) People are not good at using non-physical media. Still, music is one of those things where history dose not matter much since almost all of the consumers are under young.

Now, the big thing mp3s have going for them is that you do not need some wierd CD changer device. Walkman and car CD/mp3 player which automatically rip the CD the first time you play it would go a long way to making mp3 the dominant way to lissen to music. Young people would like the idea of "lissen to a friends CD once and have a copy perminently so much that these devices would sell like crazy.. and 30 gigs is a LOT of mp3s.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
Not exactly. (3.50 / 2) (#6)
by Perpetual Newbie on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 01:34:58 PM EST

Of course the compact disc media and format will become obsolete, but it will in the immediate future be replaced by something which is similarly small, portable, tangible, and easy to use. Digital storage alone will not replace the reasons people buy CDs. Even with wireless music players that beam all the warez you want from the Internet, people are going to want some media that they can plug into their player, store a set of favourite songs on, give to a friend, or buy at a store.

Short answer: no. (3.25 / 4) (#7)
by gblues on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 02:35:59 PM EST

In the same way that radio did not replace physical distribution, "digital distribution" will not replace physical distribution.

People like tangible things. CDs are excellent because they are lightweight, inexpensive, and small. I personally would rather get a $80 discman that will give me 30+ hours on 2 AA batteries than a $500 Nomad that gives me 10-15 hours on the same juice. Who cares if it can store my whole CD collection at once? Switching CDs isn't that much of a hassle, and certainly doesn't justify the extra $380 in cost.

Also, which is easier: installing Linux via FTP or installing it from a CD? Having done both, I can tell you that using the CD is 100 times easier and, on a slow connection, is usually faster (that is, shipping time + install time < download time).

So is physical distribution going anywhere? No.

... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
Long Answer: As they exist now...Yes (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by Carnage4Life on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 05:36:04 PM EST

In the same way that radio did not replace physical distribution, "digital distribution" will not replace physical distribution.

I disagree. CDs as they exist now (overpriced, buyer has no choice on what music goes on the CD, 5 mediocre songs for every good song) are living on borrowed time. In countries were the media companies do not have a stranglehold on the production of digital recording equipment, e.g. Japan, sales of prerecorded CDs are stagnant or falling while sales for personal digital recording and playback devices is skyrocketing.

For instance, the combination of a MP3s and a miniDisc player frees one completely from the tyranny of CDs. I can listen to whatever music I want, whenever and wherever I want without swapping disks or worrying about scratching some plastic and losing an $18 investment. Unfortunately media companies have tried all sorts of dirty tricks to stop these technologies from catching on in America (e.g. the DAT tax)

The only thing stopping me from giving up CDs entirely are
    a.)High cost of car minidisc and MP3 players
    b.)Lack of home audio devices that network with computer easily and cheaply. A stereo that had access to my winamp playlist on my PC would be a killer product.
    c.)Lack of ubiqitous high bandwidth connections stops me from accessing music when I'm not at my computer or with my Minidisc player.
None of the above problems is insurmountable and I am rather sure that they will all be resolved soon, maybe not by 2005 as the article suggests but within the decade.

[ Parent ]
1 good song? (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by AdamJ on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 07:28:00 PM EST

5 mediocre songs for every good song

You're buying the wrong CDs, then. I can't think of a CD I own that I don't listen to all the way through without skipping tracks...

[ Parent ]

When CDs will die... (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by loprox on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 10:10:59 PM EST

when flash media will become cheap. Smaller, can fit more memore (one day) no moving parts... its the perfect solution. Imagine having one card for: Video Camera Mp3Player As a diskette Digital camera Pda device I think flash media will replace Cd because they are more versatile and the technology will be bigger than cds... imagine holding a few gigs on these things. Of course I will be told that DVDs can hold more... but flash cards are the extension of technologies already in use such as MP3 players so it is only logical that they be the next big thing.

You mean... meatloaf is made with... MEAT?
Not for a long time (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by durian on Fri Nov 24, 2000 at 06:53:03 AM EST

The world is bigger than a few rich internet users! Heck, even in Europe cable modems are not widespread, and even localphonecalls are paid per minute. How is one going to download music. Not to mention large parts of Asia (the music industrie in India is very large, but it is mostly tapes) and Africa? --peter

Music collections (2.33 / 3) (#14)
by Beorn on Fri Nov 24, 2000 at 07:28:52 AM EST

In short: yes, and no, and depending on. But let's just see and find out.

Distribution of *new* music is one thing, but when it comes to music *collections* I think the future is purely digital in richer countries. There's one aspect of this I haven't seen discussed: The combination of growing storage space and network transfer speeds will within a couple of generations lead to everyone owning all music made until very recently.

Consider: Unlike a physical music collection, a digital collection can only grow, and it grows very fast, without theoretical limits. If I take a 60GB harddisk with all my music to a friend, we could exchange entire collections within a day or two, doubling it with minimal effort. Imagine this happening over and over, all over the world. Imagine parents 20 years from now giving 1000GB collections to their children.

At some point, if this process goes uninterrupted, it appears to me that everyone will own everything.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Music collections- a little bit of casual math (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by beertopia on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 04:52:36 AM EST

I have no problem with your basic scenario, but I think you're, ah, slightly underestimating the amount of music that's out there.

For example, the Grateful Dead played somewhere around 3000 shows, probably at least 2/3 of those are recorded somewhere, so that'd be at least 4000 hours just from one band- that's 500 gigs right there in 256kbit mp3s, if you could get them, which you couldn't, because collectors don't screw around with lossy formats.

Or, to take another example, I found out the other day that there's a bootleg (obviously) *26 cd* set of Bob Dylan stuff from one year: 1966. I can't even imagine why any normal person would want something like that, or when they'd find the time to listen to it all. But, it's out there. We'll need personal petabytes before we can even start trading a big _fraction_ of recorded musical history.

'course, most people wouldn't care nearly enough to collect that much music... a terabyte or two apiece would probably do most people fine, for the audio files at least. But that'll probably fill up pretty fast when they start trading movies.

[ Parent ]

Storage (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by Beorn on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 07:57:54 AM EST

that's 500 gigs right there in 256kbit mp3s, if you could get them, which you couldn't, because collectors don't screw around with lossy formats.

Then they are making a mistake. 256kbps is hardly lossy, unless you have exceptional ears and HiFi-equipment. And if they won't, their children will. Only physical destruction can prevent a work of music from being added to the digital pool.

'course, most people wouldn't care nearly enough to collect that much music... a terabyte or two apiece would probably do most people fine, for the audio files at least.

The point is, it only takes a few dedicated fans to collect the complete works of an artist, and it only needs to be collected once. Once you have artist collections, others will begin to maintain *genre* collections, and finally universal collections. All the ordinary music listener would need to do, if they have the storage, is to copy it.

Artists and companies could speed this process up, (and secure a nice, short term income), by selling official compilations.

We don't know the theoretical limit of data storage, but the 500 GB needed for Grateful Dead bootlegs is soon within range of ordinary users, and for most artists 1 or 2 GB is enough. In any case you should be able to fit all CDDB-registered CD's (610 000, 61000 GB with 100mb each) on 10 600GB disks within five years.

But that'll probably fill up pretty fast when they start trading movies.

Well, IMDB lists about 240 000 movies. Even as 1GB Mpeg4-files this is only four times the CDDB collection. TV-series might increase this by a factor of 100 to 1000, no more. Not a ludicrous goal within a century.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

A minor correction (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by Beorn on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 08:09:11 AM EST

In any case you should be able to fit all CDDB-registered CD's (610 000, 61000 GB with 100mb each) on 10 600GB disks within five years.


Nice way to ruin a good point. (Curiously, in school I always made mistakes on easy math questions, and got the hard ones right.)

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

DVD-Audio? (none / 0) (#17)
by Potsy on Sat Nov 25, 2000 at 12:45:53 AM EST

The quality issue will likely keep physical distribution going for a long time. I can't imagine CDs going away until uncompressed digital audio distribution over the internet becomes widespread, and that will probably not happen until the bandwidth of an average connection increases drastically. And with DVD-A coming down the pike, the size of uncompressed digital audio will increase severalfold.

I'm surprised no one here has yet mentioned DVD-Audio (hereafter referred to as "DVD-A"). I think DVD-A will replace CDs a lot sooner than MP3s (or Ogg, for that matter).

I haven't heard DVD-A yet, but many reviewers say they have been surprised by the increase in quality over CDs. There was one review I read (sorry, I don't have a link, I wish I had saved it), where the reviewer stated that he didn't think the quality of CDs could be improved upon, but then when he heard DVD-A, he was duly impressed. I can't wait to hear it.

At the moment, DVD-A is limited to players from Panasonic and Technics, but I predict that by next year, it will be a "me-too" feature on practially every player. You simply won't be able to buy a player without it. When that happens, DVD-A will take off like a bullet, and the increased data size will push online distribution that much further out.

Eventually (none / 0) (#21)
by m4dc0w on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 07:45:25 PM EST

For me, there are two reasons why I still buy cd's:

1. Quality - perhaps it's just my young ears, but the average mp3 (128kbps?) just sounds piss-poor next to the cd of the same thing.

2. My Conscience - As a musician, I really do feel bad when the artists get nothing for all the enjoyment they bring me. (Note I said the artists. I listen to a lot of obscure music, where I know each record sale counts towards releases continuing)

If I could dl cd quality mp3s or whatever the format may be, and give back to the artist (in a perfect world, musicians would be supported by direct voluntary donations, but I digress), I would undoubtedly switch to an all-digital music collection.

Of course that's just me.

I can't imagine, let's say my mother, dling all of her music to the hdd, mem stick, etc. I also can't imagine her having the resources to do so. As has already been stated, not everyone has patience and/or a broadband connection.

OTOH, we already know technological barriers can be overcome with time, as the evolution of media has shown us. The advantages of online distribution are indeed great: only purchase parts of a song, musicians can constantly release single tracks so we hungry fans don't always have to wait 2 years or whatever for a new album, convenience, things (not people :) don't sell out, record companies aren't needed for distribution/contracts (this would be the most significant and beneficial change by far, IMO [yes, I have very strong feelings about the music "industry]), etc, etc. The list goes on, and I hope, for the artists sake and ours, that someday online, digital distribution will exterminate physical media as we know it.

Will Digital Distribution Completely Replace CDs? | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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