Is the CD dead?

CDAs someone involved in the commercial side of Scottish traditional music as well as the charitable sector I often ask myself “Have CDs had their day and is everyone buying/streaming downloads from iTunes, Spotify etc? Or do CDs still have a place?”.

I watch my kids listening to Spotify, choosing 1 track from an album and then moving on to another track not really interested in the artist’s other work. They don’t even listen to my albums (!) just pick a track here and there (if I’m lucky and the tune is about them!).

As a musician I love the CD (or LP or cassette) as it is a chance to showcase my work of the time – show where my brain is at and what place in my music I’m at. When I listen to a CD of Lau or Karine Polwart the album tells me what is happening in their lives at the moment and how they’re reacting to it. They’re telling a story. Also what about classical music, downloads and young people. This music is definitely not bite sized and skipable quickly over – it’s to be listened to! Are album’s being consigned to history?

What’s the answer? What can we do? Commercially this new model of 1 track at a time doesn’t really work for Scottish music. We’re a minority niche and therefore never going to sell millions of units which you need to make any money out of downloads and even more so streaming. The commercial sector needs income to survive. How can we embrace this new digital age and compete with 69p downloads?

Obviously the music is not going to go away – there are more people playing it than ever in Scotland. I wonder if we not have to consider the music we make as a way to get performance opportunities and rather than a profit making business they’re promo packs designed to get gigs – calling cards. But I suppose they’ve always been this as well! We just have to keep raising the prominence of Scottish music across the world and make the public look to buy it – somehow…

Simon Thoumire