The CD Strip-Tease

I am saddened whenever I hear that CD sales are going down. While I have, to some extent, jumped on the iTunes bandwagon myself, purchasing individual songs missing from my CD library, my preference still leans toward CD format when purchasing an entire album even though, ironically, it still needs to be “ripped” to electronic format in order to play on my devices.

The fact is that I really like CDs. I always appreciated whenever the companies included the lyrics to the songs. I also appreciate the creative effort that goes into the cover artwork and into the overall packaging and presentation. Even if they weren’t your style of music, who can forget the classic album covers for Abbey Road by The Beatles, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie, Parallel Lines by Blondie, London Calling by the Clash, The Wall by Pink Floyd and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

But it is a different world today, where lyrics are but a Google search away, and the most one sees of the artwork in electronic format is a thumbnail smaller than a postage stamp, practically invisible to the 48-year-old eye.

But at the end of the day, while the convenience of song downloads cannot be disputed (unless you just fried your hard drive and do not have a backup copy), I have a definite theory as to the reason CDs are going out of style: security wrapping and that horrible sticky plastic strip at the top!

While I absolutely and completely understand retailers who could argue that because a CD might be easy to slip out of its case and into someone’s pocket, therefore security packaging is warranted, I say “No argument there”.

However, once I have purchased a CD and brought it home, I should not need to bring a new CD to my basement workshop and pull out safety goggles, safety gloves and every power tool known to humanity in order to release the CD from its plastic prison.

Experience has taught me that if I bring it directly to my computer room, average office supplies are no match for that annoying plastic strip, the one that overlaps the top and two sides of the jewel case, usually over a long white sticker with the name of the album and the artist. Where do record companies they get that sticky plastic strip? I wish that they sold that in rolls so that I can wrap my Christmas gifts with it, rather than the stuff that seems to let go somewhere around December 15th.

For example, just now I was trying to break into a CD.. 10 minutes shaved from this lifetime… trying one sharp object after another, feeling like the coyote in the cartoons, trying one gadget after another to try to capture the elusive CD. Just when I thought I had a corner of the super sticky strip pulled up and ready to tear off, it shredded and all I got was a little triangular strip… back to the drawing board! What a tease!

Maybe it’s human nature, but if you haven’t yet given up out of sheer frustration, you tend to come back, more determined than ever, tapping into an extra shot of energy to tackle the task at hand. However, just when you think you have an “in”, then you hear a faint cracking noise, a hint that you are putting too much effort into it and risk breaking the plastic jewel case. I am not usually a bull in a china shop, but there is something about that plastic sticky strip that defies logic and the laws of physics… indication to me that if I cannot break into a simple jewel case, a life of crime and burglary is definitely not my calling.

I admit that I have, on more than one occasion, walked into a store, looked at a CD that had more than one plastic security strip, gently put it down and slowly walked away backward, knowing full well that this would be a battle I would lose.

In all seriousness, I completely understand the need for deterrents to shoplifting, especially for small items. I remember the security cases of 20 years ago (when CDs were twice the price) that the store clerks had to break open before selling you the product. It is understood that they were very bulky and likely robbed stores of valuable shelf space, so that was perhaps not the best solution. The inconvenience of the “unbreakable” plastic strip we have to endure today, to honest paying customers, is a small price we need to pay to ensure everyone from the songwriter to the retailer gets their fair share, until such time that electronic formats become the standard. To me, sadly, that is probably not a long way off.

The only problem I see is that my days with those “unbreakable” plastic strips are far from gone… I would like to have a few words with the genius who decided to put a metallic version of that same super-sticky strip to cover the redemption code on gift cards …. oh well… break out the toolbox!

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