The CD concept in digital music

I don’t want to talk here about the actual CD of course, but the idea that, still in digital music, we keep talking about a number of CDs and tracks inside each CD.

deezercd1 spotifydisc2 qobuzdisc3

Wait a minute!

Isn’t CD supposed to die, or be dead already? It is obvious that we keep the notion of CD because the vast majority – if not the entirety – of music on digital platforms comes from the CD industry.

Still, let me remind you that the CD were limited to 80 minutes of music. That is for technical reasons. The size available on a CD is around 700 mega bytes, and the standard of music on CD has been chosen to be 2 channels of LPCM audio 16-bit resolution at a frequency of 44,100 Hz (the CDDA format). That fills the 700 MB.

Back to the LP era (I won’t go earlier, promise!), introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, we could only play 45 minutes of music, divided into two sides. That was also for technical reasons.

The PC digital music era does not have limits (note that CD was already digital, though talking about digital music for audio files on a computer is not accurate enough in this industry). As in many other industries, the web and the personal computers pushed the limits to what could we considered unlimited for the human being. If you play the entire catalog of Deezer, Spotify or iTunes, you’ll need more than a lifetime.

It is maybe because the transition came quickly and fast that we did not think about a new way of considering a digital product for the masses. However, we’ve been doing it since at least 13 years, after iTunes started to sell legal music with iTunes (2001). Maybe it’s time to really think of a bundle of tracks sold together digitally without the need to call it a CD. Even if an actual CD is sold away from keyboard, it would be great to start thinking of a nice digital package.

It is funny to see that when the CD appeared, we did not keep the LP “side” terminology, although it was very meaningful for a wide range of jazz and pop music. Talking about sides in a CD did not make any sense, even if at the same time CDs and LPs were sold.

I sometimes find talking about CDs today as irrelevant…

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