Direct To Recycle: The Digital Age vs Hardcopy

Will CD's, like the yellow pages, become obsolete in the digital age?

The first week of January is telephone directory and Yellow Pages delivery day here in Boston, as it is throughout the US and probably the world. I remember in a pre-internet world how coveted and useful these books were. If you had three extension phones in the house, you got three of each book, and were happy to get them.

I snapped these pictures during my walk in Boston’s South End today. Virtually every house had a shrink wrapped bundle of Yellow Page Books unopened, and waiting for the recycle truck.

Is this not a disheartening sight for the advertisers who paid to be there?

Yes, the Yellow Book company and the Yellow Pages both have a websites that duplicate the books. But to me this waste of resources mirrors the recording artist making CD’s destined for a similar fate. And it is just as disheartening to me as a CD seller.

That’s why I make my CD’s in small batches, selling and making more as needed. The demise of hard copy is not totally upon us. But the shrink wrapped Yellow Pages in the snow are the only reminder I need that it soon will be. And I don’t want to end up with a cellar full of unopened cartons of CD’s, never to be sold.

Our digital audience is moving to a different distribution channel. We must move with them.

Just as we lamented the demise of records forty years ago–and all the graphic wonder that accompanied them–soon we’ll say goodbye to the graphically diminished, but still loved, CD. What new recording artist has not felt a palpable thrill upon holding their creation in their hands? Stripping off the crinkling shrink wrap, smelling the fresh ink, reading the lines written in thanks to others, all while listening to the sounds we have made. Our senses are deluged with the physicality of our creation. Even if we sell damn few, the joy of those moments is indelible.

The woodworker, the painter, the writer all get to hold their creation in their hands. Musicians will increasingly not have that pleasure. And writers may soon follow them.

So we will embrace the coming world. As artists always have. And just like our audience, we’ll snuggle up with our MP3 player, ear buds screwed in place, select one of the 10,000 songs on it, fire up our Kindle loaded with 1,000 books… and a fine Yellow Page directory which we can browse for the local pizza place… that delivers.

Not only is selling CD’s going to tougher, so is getting our audience out of the house.

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