Tech Talk: Is the age of the CD finally over?

Apple Music: Set to finally consign CDs to history - or the charity shop.
Apple Music: Set to finally consign CDs to history - or the charity shop.
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CDs were pretty much obsolete long before Apple Music was launched on Tuesday – but following that development I doubt there are enough charity shops in Britain to accommodate the avalanche of suddenly-unwanted discs.

It was Spotify, chief rival to Apple’s new music streaming service, that led me finally to crate up my own CD collection earlier this year. Yet as of Tuesday, that, too, seems at risk of oblivion.

Many of us will have digitised our music collections to MP3 files years ago, so we can listen on our computers and phones. But Spotify and Apple Music are as much about the songs and albums you don’t own as those you do. Using either of these services it’s now possible to conjure up almost anything ever committed to disc or tape and play it instantly.

Apple Music is available now on your iPhone and iPad and will launch on Android devices in the autumn. It distinguishes itself from Spotify in offering personalised suggestions based on recommendations, and will allow artists to “suggest” their songs to users.

The other distinguishing feature, less well-publicised by Apple, is that it’s not free. Apple Music requires you to sign up to a £9.99 monthly subscription before you can listen to music you choose, as opposed to music chosen for you. The only discount after a three-month trial will be a £14.99 family package that lets you share an account between six people.

Spotify, on the other hand, lets you use most of its services – except the facility to listen when you’re not connected to the internet – for free, with occasional adverts. The full-blown service is £9.99 a month.

With those economics, you’d have thought that Spotify would soon see off the new arrival. But music services live or die by what they offer the record companies, not the listener. And of course, a model which promises unlimited plugging opportunities and for which everyone pays is music to their ears.

Apple also has the advantage of controlling the operating system on its phones, which means it can install its Music app automatically. That pretty much guarantees a huge captive 
audience, though how many will remain after the three-month trial remains to 
be seen. Spotify, on the other hand, 
could be emasculated should the record labels ever choose to pull the plug.