In Praise of CD Stores
March 29, 2013
Steven Sirski in CD, CD stores, cd art, international music, music stores, travel, travel

If there’s one thing I love doing while travelling it’s finding the local CD store. But I’m not looking for cheap rip-offs of North American artists. No, I’m looking for the local artists, and not just the traditional music either. I want the real, modern music. Rock, metal, pop, and sometimes jazz and classical music. And this is why I still love CD stores and dread the day that they cease to exist.


The mp3 player is a blessing since it simplifies carrying around your entire music collection, but purchasing CDs, in my opinion, remains one of the best ways to find local music with minimal frustration. Why? Simple. Even though you can find a lot of music online and in digital format, it’s hard to find music in different languages. I can’t write Thai and it takes forever for me to write in the Cyrillic alphabet (for Slavic languages), and forget about Chinese, Japanese or even Korean. The entire process is frustrating. CD stores make it simple to browse through a stack of CDs with ease, picking out the ones that catch your eye. And it is the artwork that will usually catch your eye.


Further, CDs may also become souvenirs for the country you visit. Often the artwork is made by local artists and so, in addition to the local music, you get another little keepsake. I’m not one for tacky plastic bracelets or mass-produced wood carvings, but CDs I’ll buy. With the packaged CD, not only do you get the music, but you get the artwork, a sample of the writing, and, in some cases, free posters, stickers or whatever. Years down the road when you’re recounting your tales abroad you’ll be able to pull out those CDs and, even if you can’t play them on your future computer, you’ll still have a souvenir from your travels.


I hear you saying, “But I won’t understand what they’re singing about!” And it is a problem, but only if you let it be. Yet I find this one of the more remarkable opportunities to actually listen to the music and how the song is written and performed rather than what they’re singing about. I assure you, most foreign bands aren’t singing “Death to the tyrants!” No, like most bands, they sing about love, relationships, politics, or drinking. There are some common themes in world music! But if that’s not good enough, you can always search YouTube since many bands stream their music there. On the other hand, one of the age-old tricks to learning a new language is to listen to music in your target language. If you go to Asia and know a local song, you’ll make new friends and they’ll probably invite you to a karaoke session.



Lastly, purchasing CDs will help local musicians. Although imported CDs can cost quite a bit in North America and Europe, in their host country CDs can be quite cheap, around $3-$5 with similar, if not better, quality to their Western counterparts. Even if you don’t go to CD stores, purchasing a CD from a local musician will help them further their musical career.


I, for one, hope CD stores stay around a little while longer. I understand that the CD itself will become a vintage, if rare, product while the stores themselves will be relegated to the scrap heap. Right now, however, they remain one of the best places to find new music while travelling abroad.


What do you think? How do you find new music? Do you still buy hardcopy CDs or have you gone completely digital?

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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