Meet Mark Seaman, the latest collector in our CD Junkies series. Since 2010, Seaman has been writing reviews for every CD in his collection for his blog The CD Project. For the time being, he’s focusing on albums released in 1981. He listens to each from start to finish – “no skipping tracks, no shuffle; compact discs only – no vinyl, no tapes, no files.” A recently retired university professor, the 55-year-old has been collecting CDs for 34 years and now has approximately 2,500 discs.
“I bought my first CD in December 1987 even though I didn’t purchase a CD player until the following month,” Seaman said. “At the time, I was finishing up a music degree as a trumpet player, so it shouldn’t surprise you my first CD was a Doc Severinsen CD, purchased at a local K-Mart for $10. My first CD player was a kinda-sorta-portable Sony D-160.”
360°Sound: What do you love about the CD format?
Mark Seaman: What’s not to love? Better sound, easy to navigate, cheaper, no ads, easily convertible to files, record labels can’t suddenly yank them from my shelves. At my age, I think it might also be a case of path dependence – I’ve been buying CDs for two-thirds of my life, so why would I switch now? I do prefer physical product and believe CDs sound better than other formats, but I’ll leave the talk of “a punchy bottom end, lively mids, and crisp highs” to the audiophiles. Plus, as consumers continue to discard their CDs in favor of streaming, I’m there to pick up their leftovers on the cheap.
What are some of your favorite genres?
Like many people, I prefer the music I grew up listening to: 60s/70s/80s pop, rock, disco, Top 40, new wave, technopop, R&B. I like soft rock so much that one faithful reader of my blogs christened me with the nickname “Soft Rock Kid.” I’m also a jazz fan, both smooth and straight-ahead. Not surprisingly, I picked up an ear for classical music in college since I was studying it daily, but I haven’t purchased any new classical music CDs in over five years. My favorite classical work is the Mozart Requiem (Sussmayr edition), but I enjoy exploring minimalist stuff from the latter half of the 20th century – John Adams, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet. As far as favorite pop/rock artists, The Beatles, of course, both as a group and later solo stuff, particularly from Paul. Stevie Wonder, Bowie, Seal, Al Green, Nick Heyward, Bebel Gilberto, Billy Joel, Joe Jackson, Linda Ronstadt, Steely Dan, Norah Jones, EW&F and Keb’ Mo.’
Tell us about your blog The CD Project.
When I was in high school, I decided I was going to listen to all my vinyl albums in alphabetical order by artist. After a few weeks, I made it to the ‘M’ artists before losing interest. Fast-forward 25 years or so and I decided to try the same thing with the CDs I saw sitting on my shelves. Two differences this time around 1) I would not listen in alphabetical order; I would listen to whatever CD struck my fancy, and 2) To keep track of the CDs I’d listened to, I would post to a simple blog. I was taking advantage of the new-fangled cloud technology. Simply put, I started The CD Project blog back in 2010 as an easy way to keep track of my CDs in an effort to listen to every disc in my collection.
In 2010, my writing was very dry, and the brief posts consisted of only three sections: my thoughts on the album and artist, picking out my favorite and least favorite tracks on the album, and, when possible, a personal memory that I connect with that album. The feedback I receive indicates that the autobiographical ‘personal memory’ section is what readers enjoy the most about the posts.
Over time, I started adding things to posts that were of interest to me: cover art, magazine ads, obi strips, hype stickers, contemporaneous magazine reviews, and chart data. Initially, I was writing only for myself, but over the past decade the readership has grown exponentially, and I’ve been introduced to some wonderful people who I’ve never met in person but keep in contact with via email, text, social media, or Zoom. That’s been the best part of messing with the blog for almost a dozen years – finding like-minded people with which to discuss hard-hitting issues such as “which phase of Herbie Hancock’s career is his best?” or “I see you like The Bo-Keys, have you heard The City Champs?” Sure, I occasionally get hate mail, but it’s normally along the lines of “I see no place to buy OR download your music. Is this just a ‘look and see’ kind of blog or is there some use to this site?” (actual comment).
Are you constantly adding to your collection?
My answer should be: “Now that I’m retired and on a fixed income, I don’t have the discretionary income to buy more CDs.” The real answer is “I’ve got an addiction to feed, used CDs are currently cheap and plentiful, so I am indeed constantly adding to my collection.” Admittedly, I have curbed my addiction somewhat and am down to buying only 3-5 discs a month. But if buying CDs is my worst vice, I’m living a pretty clean life, don’t ya think?
What do you think of the CD’s future?
I think CDs will stick around as a niche market during my lifetime because of people like us who enjoy and support the format. Resurgence? Sadly, I can’t see it happening. There’s plenty of the ”CD’s? That’s what my parents listened to.” attitude to go around, but I believe another issue these days is that your average person has no way to play CDs. I have a wonderful Yamaha CD-S300 stereo component that I regularly use, but most cars and computers no longer come standard with CD players. I guess my XBOX will play them, maybe? I fear I’m in the minority and many people don’t have access to a convenient player of any kind, so why bother buying CDs? And regarding my answer to this question, I will be very happy if I am proven to be completely wrong and CDs have a strong comeback.
stick around for more Junkies…