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In the Age of iTunes, the 8-Track Tape Lives On

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As the typewriter continues to survive in the age of the iPad, there's another "obsolete" technology that is, according to the RIAA, far from obsolete.

The CD.

Digital downloads haven't killed off the compact disc. Though CD sales fell 19% in 2010, Recording Industry Association of America data put sales at $3.5 billion for the year. By comparison, downloads increased by double digits, but generated lower total sales of $2.2 billion.

While some of this discrepancy can certainly be attributed to illegal downloads that don't register as sales, it is somehow comforting to know the old Sony Discman still serves a purpose.

"CDs are going to be around for a long time," Dave Bakula, a senior vice president at Nielsen, tells Jefferson Graham of USA Today. "It's the last physical music format, and there's unlikely to be a replacement. For people who want to own the physical version, the CD is it."

Craig Pape, director of Amazon's music store, tells Graham:

"We are still very invested in the CD. Every year, we see incredibly powerful and surprising success stories for the CD."

However, while USA Today celebrates the continuing existence of the CD, Rob Williams of the Winnipeg Free Press says it's dead.

"With the demise of the compact disc, some people might be surprised by the emergence of an old music format making a comeback: the cassette," he writes.

"We can't keep them on our shelves. We're always in short supply," the owner of a local music shop tells Williams. "I get them on eBay and they go so fast I can't keep them in stock. I'm always salvaging for cassettes."

But wait -- here comes vinyl, making a spectacular bid for relevance as we enter the backstretch!

Nielsen SoundScan data for last year show US vinyl sales up 14%, as overall album sales dropped 13%.

“We have seen a pretty dramatic increase in vinyl sales locally. I believe what we’re seeing, on a national level as vinyl becomes trendier, is a backlash to the digital age we live in," Salt Lake City record store owner Anna Brozek tells reporter Amy Spencer. "Digital music is cold and empty. Songs get dumped onto iPods and forgotten about until months later when you need to make room for the next cool thing.”

While ones and zeros make for an incredibly convenient listening experience, Brozek doesn't see the "old" way of listening to music disappearing for good.

“Vinyl and turntables aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Period.”

Astoundingly, neither is the 8-track tape. Venerable power-pop quartet Cheap Trick released their most recent album, 2009's "The Latest," on CD, vinyl, and yes, the most-reviled recording format in history:

If you buy one, all you have to do is go down to the 8-Track Tape Museum in Dallas to listen to it.
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