Ok, so there you have it – the Platinum album is pretty much a thing of the past. Only ONE country album has gone platinum in 2014 (according to RIAA,) with three weeks to go, and the winner is…… Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt on Broken Bow label.
Twenty years ago, numerous albums were certified Platinum by the RIAA, many from Country. Does that mean that there is less music being consumed today than in 1994? Not by a long shot. What it means is that we aren’t buying albums like we used to. The key word is “buying.” We (the music consuming audience) still love to get that feeling that can only be achieved by three minutes of your favorite artist serenading you softly or loudly… we just aren’t consuming it in the form that we used to. Now, we download individual tracks and store them on digital media where 100,000 songs can fit neatly on a hard drive, or a portable player, where in the past this would take up an entire wall of your room or office.
The CD is still great technology that holds up wonderfully, doesn’t wear out (as fast as tape) and for the most part is easily played no matter where you are – at home, in your car, at work, on your computer, etc. CD players are still part of the furnishing of most homes, even if disguised as something else, like a disc drive on your computer. No, it’s not that the CD itself lost appeal for us, it’s just that when technology came along and made it cheaper, or for the “creative” free, and you could save so much space, we stopped using the CD. By disintermediation, you can now get individual tracks and disregard tracks on an album of which you might not be as fond.
But what gets lost in the translation? Albums (or CD’s) are a work of art, that take you on a journey of the mind and soul, a roller-coaster ride that ultimately tells you a story that the artist has in mind for you, and for which you alone can interpret any way you like, and which changes based on what you might be going through in your life from listening to listening. Just as album cover art was highly-prized work in and of itself, and somehow became less and less appreciated as we moved from vinyl to tapes to CD’s, so too is the loss of the full album as a work of art, beginning to end. Imagine when you view the Mona Lisa that someone takes just the upper left corner of the painting and shows it to you and says, “enjoy it – we know it’s not the whole work of art, but you get the idea, and by the way, that’s the best part anyway.” That is in effect what is happening with the death of the CD and the current consumption patterns.
Aside from what is happening to the music business itself, the death of the CD is a loss; a breakdown of the artistic journey that the artist was attempting to lead you on to begin with. Now, we just get a page or two from the book and are asked to understand it with just that little taste. For some, it might be enough and nothing lost. For most, I fear that we are losing something that will be difficult if not impossible to replace any other way.