So “uncollecting” music has not been a huge priority in this venture, and I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when Dave Holmes’ piece “A Decade of Music is Lost on Your iPod. These Are the Deleted Years. Now let us praise them” was published on Esquire. Holmes is a few years older than I am, and I remember him from as far back as when he came in second to Jesse Camp in MTV’s “I Wanna Be a VJ” competition in the late 1990s. He actually got a job with the network and VH-1 anyway and has been a pop culture commentator on television, online, and in print for at least twenty years. And the piece shows it. Granted, I consider everything from the mid-2000s until now a “lost decade” because I kind of lost track of what was cool or popular, so that’s why that time period is a “lost decade” to me, but Holmes is the type of essayist/commentator who isn’t up his own rear end and doesn’t snob at much of anything, so I’ll agree with what he has to say.
Anyway, one of the biggest points in that essay is that one huge factor in this music being “lost” or “deleted” is the (still very) slow death of physical media via compact discs and the eventual official takeover of digital music as a preferred avenue to listen. The result has, in summary, kind of brought us back to how my parents’ generation listened to music in the 1950s and early 1960s, which is via singles instead of albums. I mean, I don’t think I can truly give all the credit to the Beatles for the concept of the album, but I do think albums like Revolver are at least somewhat responsible for the rise of the fully realized album. And it’s not like people don’t release albums anymore, but because of Apple, Spotify, Pandora et al, artists can now drop singles without having to attach them to a $15-$20 CD that someone will grab at Best Buy, Sam Goody, or Borders (yes, I know cassingles and CD singles existed–I owned many in my day–but they were there to hopefully tease you enough to get the entire album). I personally haven’t bought a physical CD in nearly a decade and I want to say that said CD was The Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang. While I have bought entire albums via iTunes in the intervening years, most of my purchases have been single songs.
Yet I still have about 700 CDs in my house along with a small record collection (I didn’t count them). The records take up a pretty small amount of space in my basement entertainment center and I bust them out whenever I’m in the mood, but while many of the CDs have been ripped to my computer (and backed up onto a portable hard drive), I have to say that I’m not going to throw them out anytime soon. Why? Well, back in 2012, I got two giant Case Logic CD cases–they hold about 350 CDs each–and decided to fill both of them while throwing away the jewel cases (I blogged about it here: “Jewel-cased Memories”). So they aren’t taking up any huge amount of space like my longboxes of comics and shelves of books. Furthermore, while much of the collection is digitized, a lot of it isn’t and I still take the time to throw the CDs into my computer and grab songs that I want to rediscover (and no, I won’t go and re-buy the album or song). So they serve a practical purpose, even if one of them is a copy of Live’s Throwing Copper that a girlfriend from high school gave me and I probably haven’t listened to since we broke up in 1996.
So while Dave Holmes rediscovers a decade of music that is lost on a dead iPod, I’m wondering if there is a balance to be struck in our music collections. When is it music hoarding and when it is being musically wasteful? I can’t help but be annoyed by those who are so quick to just chuck their physical media and then whine about not being able to find it on a streaming service because it smacks of entitlement. At the same time, do I really need that Dynamite Hack album?
I am sure there will come a day when I decide that it will be time to start going through the CDs, ripping everything that’s left and worth hanging on to, and then dumping them into a recycling bin (especially if I run out of a way to play them). For now, they’ll sit in front of my longboxes, waiting for the day when I realize I don’t have every track from George Michael’s Faith on my iPod and need to rectify the situation.