Dead Formats Society

CDs are dead, long live… well, what, exactly?
Rob Morgan
Patsy Palmer - © PA
The last few weeks have seen three new developments which offer three very different visions of the future of the music industry: Beatles remasters, Spotify mobile and iTunes LPs. Physical CD sales have long been expected to be eclipsed by MP3 downloads, but recently those downloads themselves are starting to look like old news.
The Beatles' remastered albums are the CD's last splash as a format. As Rolling Stone put it, EMI "has smartly turned its series of reissues into an event…. Just as the recording technology got more sophisticated with Rubber Soul and Revolver, those albums' CDs sound fuller and cleaner…Sgt. Pepper gains a clarity and vividness the vinyl version simply doesn't have…"
Except that was written in 1987: sound familiar? CDs had been selling big numbers for a few years, but unlike say The Stones, The Beatles had held back the release of their catalogue to make it an event. It's not just the Beatles' music we're expected to buy over and over, it's the marketing scheme too. The exact same trick is working right now with further remastered CDs and no doubt it would work again with SACD or surround sound versions.
But the big party The Beatles haven't yet crashed, after almost a decade of anticipation, is digital downloads.
They had better hurry up or they'll find everyone has gone to Spotify.
The second development was the Spotify application for iPhone and Android platforms. This has the potential to revolutionise the industry by skipping the download phase altogether. If you haven't tried Spotify on your computer, you're in for a treat.
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