Physical vs Downloading

I’ve been sitting with my feet up for a while considering how to write a piece on the whole downloading music vs CD’s/vinyl debate.  After doing a bit of research (or googling which is a very technical method of finding out information, just ask anyone who works in IT) I’ve decided to put down some thoughts on this matter.  It’s a subject which will no doubt go on and on, so I’m sure it will present itself again in the future.

Anyone who knows me will back up the fact that music is my life.  I ramble on about it, write about it, have headphones permanently in my ears and I also buy a lot of it.  Friends that have been shopping with me will know that once I enter a music shop I will disappear within the space of a minute and you’ll then have to spend a long time trying to find me. When I’ve moved house (which has happened multiple times) the transportation of my beloved CD collection has caused no end of nightmares (and heavy lifting) as it’s so vast. Most of my collection has now been banished to my loft due to space issues and I shed a tear on a daily basis because of this.  I think you will glean from this that I love my CDs.

I’m all about the physical aspect of owning music.  I love to buy a CD and hold it in my tiny hands.  To be able to take the booklet out and read it or get that shiny silver disc out and hold it up to the light is a thing of beauty.  It also means I need masses of space to keep them all hence the reason they are currently in my loft feeling neglected.


Now, I am not against buying music online.  No way.  I’m not some kind of luddite who thinks it’s the work of the devil to get music via your computer.  I have bought quite a few songs online and I actually think it’s great.  It’s just not my preference when it comes to the music I love and want to keep.

When I first started to buy music in the 80’s it was on vinyl.  Getting 7 inch singles from Woolworths with my pocket money was the thing to do.  Albums were also bought on vinyl until I started to get cassettes.  Cassettes!  Remember those?  I still have a few of these knocking around somewhere.  Anyway.  CD’s appeared in the 80’s, but we didn’t have a CD player so there wasn’t much point in buying them at that times.  I have no idea when I first bought a CD or who the artist actually was, but it was no doubt something a bit twee.

My extensive collection has grown over the years and if I had to do a rough calculation of how many CD’s I now own it would probably be in 4 figures.  Although as you should know, its not all about the size of your collection it’s what you do with it…

Not all the albums I own are amazing, but then that’s kind of what music is all about for me. Trying something new and seeing if you like it.  I’m not actually sure whether I can say there is an album I own where I think every single song is a winner (except Expecting To Fly of course). There will always be some kind of album filler that is a bit shite and was only added to get the track listing up.  I’m sure most artists would admit to this if you asked them.

But what about this being a debate though?  Well, as I said I do download some music, but my heart belongs to the physical stuff that I can hold on to.  I remember watching a music documentary recently where Richard Hawley said something along the lines of “you can’t hug a digital download” which made me laugh because it’s so true!  It’s not a material thing for me where I can show off what I own, it’s just that basic need for me to have and be able to hold my favourite music.  I know that by downloading you get it then and there, but I don’t mind waiting a bit longer for something I love.

As far as I am aware there is the issue that some MP3 files are so compressed that the quality is not the same.  With vinyl you get that beautiful ‘hiss’ and CD’s pick up the great backing feed.  But digital loses all of this which can sometimes be the best part.  People I talk to agree and we hate the whole compressed element as we love hearing that extra special stuff that you can sometimes pick up in the background.

Not long ago I was told an interesting fact by one of my Twitter pals (thanks Michelle) about The Mother of the MP3.  This accolade belongs to the 1982 song Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega.  The reason behind this is that the song was actually used to develop the audio compression scheme known as MP3.  Great fact and you can read more about it on Wikipedia here.


From my ‘research’ (I use the term extremely loosely) it seems that Napster started the download phenomenon in 1999.  Apple iTunes is the biggest supplier of downloads and it’s an increasing market.  The cost of a new CD is around £9 which has dropped over the years, probably to compete with the online market.  You can however buy second hand CD’s online from retailers for as little as 1p which is amazing and can help you with your collection if you are looking for some older albums to add.

The choice is yours as to how you buy your music.  As a geek and techie I should be excited about downloading music, but I can’t help it, I just love buying CD’s.  I love browsing music shops and wasting hours roaming the aisles looking for bargains or rarities.  You just don’t get the same enjoyment looking at iTunes on a computer screen.  It’s what things like Record Store Day are all about and why I joined in the campaign to save a local record shop here in Nottingham last year.  The experience of buying music is also a big part of being a fan and although I have to sometimes resort to buying CD’s online, my first choice will always be to go to a record shop and get the buzz.

However you get your music whether it be online, streaming or whatever, it’s really up to you. My house is dominated by CD’s and I can’t honestly see that changing until they stop producing them full stop, which I seriously hope won’t happen for a very long time.

Vinyl 1


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