Hay’s Daze: And another one bites the dust

As the quintessential Prog Rock band Queen so eloquently sang: And another one bites the dust. I’m not referring to another former staff member of our three-ring presidential circus to the south; I’m referring to what music industry insiders call “physical mediums.” And I’m not referring to those people who sit around small tables in darkened rooms and speak to the dearly departed, I’m referring to what you and I call “CDs.”

That’s right, just when you finally got around to copying all 78 boxes of your priceless family pictures so that they are finally safe on a physical medium other than paper – or heaven forbid – on digital files where the computer gremlins can easily make them disappear forever, the announcement comes that signals the eventual demise of the CD.

Best Buy stores have declared that as of July 1, they will stop selling CDs. And other retailers are bound to follow. They say that since 2014 music downloads from various interweb streaming sites like Spotify and Apple have “eclipsed” sales of CDs, and not only that they point out “gadget makers aren’t really making CD players anymore.” Which of course means just when you’ve transferred all your family photos AND your complete library of favorite tunes to a stack of CDs, pretty soon you won’t be able to play them, except maybe on a computer from whence they came in the first place. The machines seem to be going the way of the VHS player. Remember VHS? It wasn’t that long ago, was it?

And guess what – more and more new cars are being built sans CD players.

“Really?” you may say. “But I still buy CDs!” To which the industry says: “You’re a hopeless fossil.” In fact, Billboard points out that the bestselling CD in 2016 was a Mozart box set containing 200 (yes, two times 100) CDs. And since it’s pretty obvious that thousands of people didn’t line up for that hot item, the ole music plastic disc is in serious trouble.

But I guess it’s no surprise. As they say, the only thing you can really count on is change – except from a vending machine.

Still, the mind boggles. In my little music room downstairs (also called “my office”) I have a wonderful old gramophone, a family heirloom that plays cylinders. Yes kids, you heard that right – cylinders. They are hollow hard plastic tubes roughly the size of a pop can that have sound grooves all around the outside and are slipped onto a metal shaft in the gramophone which you would crank it up by hand. That’s right – no electricity or battery required – a modern miracle!

And baby boomers will no doubt fondly recall the historical musical medium excursion that has included breakable 78s, 45 singles with the swirly adapters for the center hole, awesome LPs, ridiculous 8 Tracks and once-ubiquitous Audio Cassettes. And, now, apparently, CDs can soon be added to that dusty pile of memorabilia.

“That’s fine with me,” some audiophiles may say. “CDs always have had an inferior digital sound anyway.” In fact there are many Hi-Fi (remember “Hi-Fi”?) aficionados out there who have always said the only decent thing about CDs is that they make fairly good drink coasters.

But fear not, in an ultimate act of delicious irony Best Buy has announced although it will not be selling CDs anymore, it will continue to stock and sell vinyl records!

Oh, and BTW millennials, “Hi-Fi” means “high fidelity” – just in case you were wondering.

And you can still get vinyl at Best Buy.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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