Songs might be immortal, but storage is not. A new music service seems to arrive every week, promising a limitless smorgasbord of everything you forgot you wanted to hear (and little else besides), but all those songs exist on servers or data farms that can break, wear out or be wiped clean at any time. Physical CDs and vinyl aren't safe, either--not only does the plastic have a limited lifespan, but any actual object can get lost, ruined or destroyed. This week's been a sad reminder--one of the casualties of the ongoing riots in the United Kingdom was a large Sony-owned distribution warehouse in Enfield, burnt to the ground. It stocked CDs from hundreds of the UK's major and minor independent labels, all of which are lost.
The name you'll know best among those affected is Adele, whose U.S. crossovers 19 and 21 came out in the U.K. under XL Recordings. She has a U.S. label (Columbia), so this probably isn't a catastrophe for her personally, but it's undoubtedly a blow to the label itself. And Adele, who's topped the Billboard 200 album chart for seemingly forever, is much more likely to be affected in some small sense than other XL artists like Tyler, the Creator, for whom physical CDs--not to mention U.K. distribution--aren't really the point. Other labels affected are Domino, which represents Franz Ferdinand and Animal Collective among dozens of others, and Wall of Sound, whose artists include Royksopp. The full list can be found here; it includes hundreds.
Granted, the riots are about much more than music, but this is one of those unfortunate side casualties that affects smaller labels--many of which give artists like Adele their start--much more than larger conglomerates like Sony, which are more likely to spread their stock more widely. If you'd like to support the labels and their thousands of artists, the best thing to do right now is go directly to their sites (they get the largest cut of the profits that way) and buy digital copies. It's nowhere near the ideal solution, but it's about all buyers can do right now.