Earlier today, I was contemplating my Black Sabbath boxed set, 'The Black Box', which is the most recent remastering and rerelease of the whole catalog of the original lineup of Black Sabbath. (This is comprised of their first eight albums plus a DVD of several videos.) I have owned many copies of each of these albums through the years, from vinyl, to eight-track, to cassette, to CD. On CD, the collection has even been remastered several times.
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What will be interesting is to see if the catalogue is ever rereleased in any other form again.
Obviously, a time will come when Compact Discs go the way of the 8-Track Tape and the cassette tape. Vinyl, interestingly, has a second lease on life due to the school of thought regarding their aural 'warmth' and fidelity of sound.
Mini-CD's haven't worked out commercially, except for a part of the .mp3 audience who likes to use them to hold collections. Very few albums have been sold on premanufactured MCD's.
.MP3's are obviously here with us to stay. However, they are a rather abstract format; how will they be carried? Always on .mp3 players, which are increasingly commonly portable hard-drives? Is this the way we're always going to carry our music?
This causes me to contemplate the fate of the 'album' as part of the world of music collectibles. What will people collect that will now create and appreciate in value?
Obviously people will not regard a copied MCD or burned CDR as something that will appreciate unless a band has burned it and it has become exceedingly rare, as in unsigned bands that release their music independently.
Is there now no longer a future for a physically collectible musical media? This will probably become solely the domain of vinyl collectors. As the founder and singer of Big Black, Steve Albini said in the strongest possible terms, "The future belongs to analog. Fuck digital." (paraphrased)
That's not necessarily my view. I agree that there is value to the analog technique for those who find a lack of depth in the sound of digital or digitally remastered recordings. However, until the next great paradigms arise in techniques of recording and in recording media, this is an argument that will remain alive in musical circles for the forseeable future.