The Case for CDs: Ableton Co-Founder Robert Henke Defends the “Underrated” Format

Michael Breyer

John Cameron

2 min read

The Case for CDs: Ableton Co-Founder Robert Henke Defends the “Underrated” Format

Ableton Co-Founder Robert Henke is no stranger to taking a stand when it comes to controversial matters. He recently weighed in on an unexpected argument: CDs versus vinyl records.

The composer and audiovisual artist makes a strong case for the former format, especially taking aim at the social and environmental impact of the latter. “I still love physical products,” he writes in a Facebook post. “But manufacturing big heavy plates of plastic and having them shipped around the globe is a huge waste of energy and resources. In times of global warming and dependency on cheap energy from the likes of Russia or Saudi Arabia, I consider not doing any releases on vinyl anymore, but fully embracing CDs.”

Henke's Facebook post

Henke's Facebook post

Social media commentators predictably defended vinyl in the ensuing thread. Henke amended his post to include seven points addressing some of the arguments made in the comments, including one professing the resilience of CDs and another clarifying that he has no qualms with anyone who buys and sells vinyl records.

Before developing Ableton Live alongside Bernd Roggendorf at the turn of the millennium, Robert Henke emerged as a respected name in deep techno for his Monolake project. His body of work also includes audiovisual installations and stage shows such as Destructive Observation Field and Lumière.

In 2017, Henke made headlines for canceling all U.S. Monolake and Lumière III dates in protest of an immigration ban imposed by then-President Donald Trump. Globetrotting DJ and producer Dave Clarke had made a similar announcement after Trump was sworn into office.

Vinyl records have enjoyed a prolonged resurgence only bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl sales grew 28.7% to $619.6 million in 2020 — $136 million more than the amount spent on CDs. It was the first time since 1986 that vinyl sales exceeded that of CDs, and vinyl sales climbed even higher to over $1 billion in 2021.

April saw Henke publish a limited run of his first book. It explores CBM 8032 AV, his audiovisual project entirely run on computers from the 1980s.