I well remember in the late 1980s, saving up for my very first CD player which was a Philips portable device. What was great about it was the fact it offered an escape from the hassles of dust collecting stylus needles, track skipping and all the other drawbacks of vinyl record turntables. It felt like the start of a new age and way to enjoy music. For me, that tiny CD player marked the start of a process of discovery, opening up doors to outstanding recordings by classical guitarists such as Julian Bream, John Williams, Andres Segovia and many others.

Now in 2024, a month and a bit out from releasing my latest CD album, in an age when digital music reigns supreme, I can't help but ponder what it is that's so special about physical CD albums and why it is still worth having them made.

For any musician making a new album, there's a great sense of satisfaction to be had seeing the finished product of what can often be a long, demanding process. Particularly so when you have been involved in many aspects of its creation. In the case of my upcoming new CD I have composed, performed and recorded the music, designed the album artwork and organised the album's release. There have been many challenges, particularly when the recordings were being made in my home studio. Recording classical guitar presents many surprising challenges that other musicians might not have to consider. For example, when the guitar is played softly and quietly, the tiniest of extraneous noise, such as the performer breathing, a shirt sleeve moving against the guitar body or a chair leg lightly squeaking, can easily impair what might otherwise be a pristine, unblemished note. Some things are completely out of your control, such as when an uninvited interloper in the form of a cricket invaded my recording space and decided to chirp just as I'd finished the final note of an otherwise perfect recording!

At the same time there has been crucial guidance received from experts in finalising the soundtracks and artwork. I strongly urge guitarists to seek professional advice when it comes to DIY recording, even if it is simply to get the microphone placement right to begin with. When setting up for my recordings, I followed advice received remotely from the sound engineer, Paul McGlashan of Classic Sound, who also mastered the soundtracks.

Designing artwork takes practise and having created several of my own album covers and booklets, I was at an advantage in preparing the latest. However, I do not have access to premium design software such as Photoshop's Indesign, and have made do with freely available shareware apps GIMP and Scribus. However, when I say 'make do', I do not mean to say that those software tools are at all lacking. It has been possible to produce artwork from which CD companies have been completely happy to produce physical copies. That is provided you have followed precisely their artwork specifications. And believe me, they will definitely tell you when something is amiss as I learnt when my Selwyn Recital album was a day out from production. There was a last minute panic, making a small but important '11th hour' adjustment to the cover layout!

Another point is, while enjoying the support of a recording label has many benefits, nothing really beats the satisfaction of self managing your own album release. In all respects you have complete control of the process and how the album develops. This can also be a bit of a two-edged sword in that self-managing involves a whole lot of work and at times pressure to make all the best decisions for a successful outcome. This extends to marketing the new album which requires self-belief and confidence in your own work.  It can feel like quite a leap of faith when approaching radio stations and CD retailers, as I have recently done.

There are many positive arguments for physical albums. While online streaming platforms offer convenience and vast libraries of music, CDs provide superior sound quality, ownership, independence from the internet, tangible products, support for artists, collectibility and a lower environmental footprint than live streaming and privacy. These factors make CDs a compelling choice for music enthusiasts who value quality, ownership, and a more intimate listening experience. Physical CDs purchased while attending the artists' concert performances act as a memento of that special experience, and all the better if it is a signed copy. There's nothing quite like sitting back in your favourite armchair, allowing an album to unfold from start to finish, while taking in the artwork and reading about the music as the tracks are played. For many it has been and still is the ultimate way to enjoy and truly appreciate recorded music.

The best piece of advice to be gained from this TIP is to not rush a new album release. It isn't finished until you are 100% happy with every single detail and it's better to delay the release for a year or more than publish in haste.

I like to think there is still a place for physical CD albums and that people, young and old, will start to fully embrace them once again. If you're reading this and can afford to do so, why not join the cause? Buying a CD is a great way to support artists and let them know they are valued!