Death of a CD
23 November 2009
A couple of things on my agenda this week. One is that there are encouraging signs of life in the electronics industry, the other is that my CD collection may soon have to face up to being obsolescent!
The first is that the official figures for Productronica have been issued and it is no surprise to see that they have fallen away from the equivalent event two years ago. But despite this significant fall – from 40k in 2007 to 28k this year – I maintain my view from last week that the exhibition was an overall success and a positive boost for the industry. With 42% of visitors coming from outside Germany (a light fall, proportionately, from 45% in 2007), this is clearly the leading international show, but maybe it is also a sign of the times that it is now only 8000 visitors ahead of Nepcon Shenzen in terms of overall numbers.
Many conversations I have had since the electronics manufacturing world has returned from Munich have continued along the theme of positivity – although numbers were (officially) down, the number of people there who were making decisions about investing in their electronics manufacturing capability or capacity was unexpectedly good. The number of people at the top level of management in a company increased from 15% to 19%, while 91% of all visitors had some decision-making role for their company.
Music meets CD end!
It always feels like a bit of self-indulgence when I talk about UK companies, which probably speaks volumes about the British psyche – anything good we Brits do is something to be vaguely embarrassed about. Clearly this is something we need to ‘get over’, as the UK does still have much to offer the world of electronics. One such company is Linn Products, a company I went to visit back in the 90s and who make high quality audio equipment. It still stands out as one of my favourite site visits from down the years, partly because the corporate and individual passions for both music and Scotland, passions that I share, was evident as soon as I entered the building.
The reason Linn was in the news recently is because it is reportedly going to phase out its CD player manufacture and instead concentrate on digital streaming technology. Linn will also continue with its turntables (widely regarded as a quality benchmark for the industry) to cater for the surge of interest in vinyl records. So an interesting divergence towards old and new music playing technology that leaves the CD abandoned in no mans land like the cassette tape before it. While far from being at the bleeding edge of consumer electronics, even I managed to face reality a few months ago and dispose of my music collection on tape. At an emotional level it was the soundtrack to a good part of my life – on a more practical level it was of very poor quality, mostly degraded beyond use, I had very little equipment to play it on and as a collection it contained several things I wasn’t that proud of (does anyone remember Sigue Sigue Sputnik?) – it had to go.
While CDs are obviously more durable, I wonder if they are going to go the same way. After they have been copied onto your computer (obviously I am only talking about ones that I have bought myself!) they can be transferred to the MP3 and join the rest of your music collection in one place. What purpose does the CD have anymore? With slightly more trepidation (I have not backed up my computer recently) my wife has therefore persuaded me that the CD collection should now head towards the charity shop. While I can’t get away from the fact that something of the soul of a record lies within its tangibility and sleeve artwork and notes, I recognise that time is moving on. All the information about a band and its songs is online so the CD will stop serving a purpose.
So Linn will not be the last company to leave CD players behind and, despite my misgivings above, I think it highlights the opportunity that the world of digital music has at its fingertips. Virtually anything can now incorporate that extra MP3 capability – music is all around.
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