Back in the early 2000s, teens and twentysomethings would pool their resources and spend an evening scarfing pizza and ripping each others' favorites CDs. We still went to record shops, where vinyl and cassettes were for the most part ignored. But then the hits started coming, from the iTunes music store to Apple's abandonment of a disc drive for laptops. Now, in an age of streaming subscriptions, you probably wrote off the compact disc long ago.
Media formats can take a long time to fade out, but at a certain point, they start to fall off cliffs. For CDs, the race to obsolescence heated up even more this week. Billboard reports that Best Buy, once the nation's leading purveyor of compact discs, will no longer carry them after July 1. Meanwhile, Target is digging in for a fight with suppliers, saying it won't pay for CDs and DVDs until a customer buys the item off the shelf.
There's a reason streaming media has taken off like it has, but proponents of physical media, from books to DVDs to LPs, have valid concerns about ceding the availability of art and information to the whims of a corporation — not to mention artist concerns about earning a living from their work. Not every format is in danger; Blu-rays, for instance, are growing in available features and in sales. But if you prefer to own a physical copy of something you enjoy and paid for, you won't be able to count on tech and big box stores for long.
Use the website Vinyl Hunt to look up independent record stores near you, or order new and used music online through an established shop like Chicago's Reckless Records. Buy music at live shows to give artists money directly, or contribute to artists through websites like NoiseTrade. If your computer doesn't have an optical drive and you still want to load up CDs, you can buy a USB-attachable disc reader and burner for as little as $25. Vinyl came back, and even cassette tapes are objects of fascination today. CDs could stick around and even resurge in the future, but until then, find a supplier you like and support them as long as you can.