Known Johnson

September 18, 2005

Slash and burn

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom @ 12:54 pm

Being on a budget, due not only to being, for a few months, a one-income household but also due to new and seemingly random costs associated with a baby, I’ve taken it upon myself to seriously re-evaluate my obsession: my CD collection.

I am not a “collector” in the typical sense. I don’t search only for hard-to-find titles or pressings, though the hard-to-find stuff is nice to run into. I’m more interested in simply finding new music. And if I find something new I like, I generally tend to move through an artist’s catalog fairly quickly – strike while the iron is hot, as they say. After a while, I generally find that only a few entries in most artists’ catalogs are really essential, a few more are close to essential, and the rest essentially go ignored – but for whatever reason, I’m loathe to part with those titles I don’t listen to. It’s not that I dislike all of that music – I simply don’t find a need to listen to those albums. With a couple thousand CDs to listen to, I have plenty of other great albums that I’d rather listen to than the so-so releases by most bands. There are, of course, exceptions – there are Rush albums that I may listen to once every few years (the self-titled first album, anyone?) but I’d have to be scraping for sandwich money to get rid of it. Unfortunately, due to my “collector” nature, there’s just a lot of CDs in this collection that aren’t absolutely necessary, and since there are plenty of new albums coming out in the next few months, and because I am trying to be a good father and simply can’t live with the guilt of buying CDs over, say, baby clothes and toys, it’s time to part with a good number of these.

I have a new tactic for this Great Purge, however, one that I’m having to swallow my pride and grudgingly go with: in order to stave off fits of re-buying things simply to hear them one time, I’m ripping everything I trade in, unless I deem it pure drivel, to my brand new 250gb hard drive. “For posterity,” possibly. “To save my sanity” and “to save my budget” is more fitting. But if I can’t remember the last time I listened to, say, Metallica’s self-titled black album, it’s got to go. And I can’t – all I remember was succumbing to a great desire to hear it, buying it used on Half.com for a small amount of money, and a great struggle ensuing because the seller had the gall to sell me a friggin’ CDR copy, complete with photocopied cover art. I eventually got my money back and the guilty party found it in himself to send me the real deal. Then I listened to it, and then I put it away. I haven’t listened to it more than a couple times since then – if that. When was this? July 21, 1999, according to my feedback left for the seller on Half.com. 1999 – SIX years ago. It’s probably safe to say that it’s time for that to go. But I’m keeping mp3s of it, not because it’s essential, but because I might say to myself, at any time, “Damn, I need to hear ‘Of Wolf and Man.'” Because those are the urges that drive me to re-buy.

My criteria for this is simple: if I lost everything on this hard drive, what would I desperately need to have copies of to suit my needs? Whatever I come up with is what definitely, unquestionably stays. The rest are up for debate, with my initial feelings leaning toward purging them. I’ll carefully consider the problems associated with getting rid of some of this stuff – is it rare? If so, it probably stays. I also have to carefully think about whether something has simply fallen out of favor with me right now – because that does happen quite often. And what goes back goes back in order to fund new finds – because I can’t see my interest in hearing new music diminishing just because I’m getting older.

This is a big shift for me – for years I stood behind my stance that mp3s were the end of music as we know it. And I’m right – the future is digital, regardless of how some people feel about it. We likely won’t be buying CDs within 10 years time – we’ll be downloading, or streaming, or something along those lines. That makes me sad, I have to admit. But it simply makes sense. The Ipod really changed my views on things – having 35gb of music available to me pretty much at any time really made me see how unwieldy CDs. I’m going to miss liner notes, however, and intriguing packaging. Unfortunately, as time has progressed, I see fewer and fewer examples of that anymore anyway. But, for me, this decision is purely economical and efficient – I have neither the money to buy everything I want to check out nor the space to store it all. I’ll still buy – but those things may wind up back in the store, used, if I find they don’t absolutely thrill me.

I can hear some of you right now, wondering why I simply don’t resort to P2P networks to find these things. It’s simply because I have to know that at least I have done something to put some money in the pockets of the artists. Regardless of the fact that I’m turning around and selling those copies (at about a third of what I paid, generally) I still actually put my money into the artist. I guess you could say that’s little consolation for the artist when someone buys my copy used, but at least they received some money at some point from me. My purchases may be via trade credit, but at least I’m doing something.

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