I’m the last person on earth still buying CDs. Here’s why…

I’m the last person on earth still buying CDs. Here’s why…

I'm the last person on earth still buying CDs. Here's why...

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Some gloomy day, a fresh-faced person in a lab coat will try to pull an old Spoon record out of my gnarled old hands. And on that day there will be a fight.

I will not easily let go of this setting, and I look forward to the day when, with the strength I have left, I can educate these young people on CDs.

About 82 million people in the United States have paid for music streaming services starting in 2021. In 2022, vinyl sales hit the ridiculous figure of 43 million in the United States.

Yet here I am, swearing to be the last person on Earth to buy CDs.

It’s not so much about the CDs themselves. Vinyl lovers (a group I consider myself to be part of) will talk about sound quality and big, beautiful album covers. CDs don’t offer much charm. No one is ever going to play a CD and mumble to themselves while holding a cup of hot tea, “Mmm, so hot.”

This is the ongoing battle for control of my own beloved music collection. It’s about how, in mad frustration, I chose a hill to die on. A hill made entirely of compact discs.

I would now like to take this opportunity to blame my father.

Well, the blame isn’t quite fair. The guy is a champion. He’s also a former radio DJ with enough vinyl records to one day build the Carson family mausoleum. The thing is, you can’t put Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band – with the bright yellow gatefold, blood red back and all that colorful mayhem on the cover – in the hands of a 6-year-old and not expecting anything to happen.

My father’s collection has always seemed magical. It was a huge physical presence that preceded me and served as evidence of a version of him before he was my father. It was important enough not to get kicked out of various moving vans as my family traveled from Texas to California to Georgia to Tennessee over the years.

I never considered not build my own collection.

So I started mine two years later, at a time when cassettes were losing ground to CDs and vinyl was no longer on. At a crucial moment when buying my first album, I chose my format, opting for a CD of the album I was buying because CDs, I was told, were the ‘coming.

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In 2007, researchers from the University of Winchester in the UK conducted a study on why people collect music. One of the main reasons is that people try to construct a cultural autobiography representing sides of themselves – the good guys, the bad guys, and the boy bands.

It is certainly true for me. I organize my CDs in the order they interest me. My CD shelf is like a sample of arctic carrot ice cream, each shelf representing a time in my life. The most cluttered shelf is at college, when everything seemed important and my friends and I packed in Friday afternoons to hit the record store. One look at 2007’s Wincing the Night Away by the Shins and I’m back in my freshman dorm hanging up a poster of (what else?) Sgt. Pepper.

Of course, there are other reasons why I buy CDs. On the one hand, I want the artists I care about to take my money so they can continue to make the music I rely on for every high, low and in-between point of my life.

Do you remember going to a store and buying CDs? I do it because I ALWAYS DO IT.

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Also, the liner notes, man. Where else am I supposed to know who co-wrote which song and which obscure 70s R&B track was sampled on which track so I could annoy my friends?

Another reason: I want. Me too.

Pharaoh Khufu got a pyramid. Let me have a few stacks of an outdated media format.

None of this is to say that I have anything against other formats. I clean vinyl. I subscribe to a streaming service. And I admit it’s gotten harder to sustain CD purchases, in part because I can listen to any album I want on the day it comes out and have the ability to argue with myself if a record is important enough to warrant a place in my album autobiography.

Also, there are many times when I walk into my neighborhood record store, trying to keep my money local, and I just can’t find what I’m looking for.

As a result, my collection is imperfect. There are albums that I forgot to buy. Or albums I bought digitally that made sense but aren’t represented on my CD shelf.

But I try. I always try.

There’s a dull sadness I’ve felt as my music collection sprawls across different rooms, hard drives, and even servers. These days, if I come across a new artist or band, I ask myself a few questions: If I never buy it, is it still mine? Should it be mine? Would it matter to me less? Would having it on CD change that specific feeling of finding an album that will probably always sound like early spring 2019 to me?

I won’t bother to find out because most likely I will be Buy it. And when that kid in the lab coat comes looking for me, I’ll crush him with it.


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