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The CD Conundrum: Coasters or Collectors Items (What the hell should I do with my 1,000+ CDs?!?)

Images of me unpacking and resorting my CD collection in my new London flat.

For those of you who do not know, I have been on my own World Tour of sorts as of late. In 1996 I lived in Newport, Rhode Island. In 1998 I moved up to Boston, where I met my wife (at a Tom Petty concert: find out how here). In 2002 we moved from Boston to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. In 2005, we made the big move around the globe to Sydney, Australia. This past September we relocated to London; ironically we now live on Sydney Street.

There are two things I have always traveled with no matter where I have rambled: my wife and my music collection.  Arguably these are the two most important things in my life; I couldn’t do without either. Funny though, I have had a longer relationship with my music collection than my wife (she and I have been together over 10 years). My wife is not the jealous type, nor should ever have reason to be: I am an extremely loyal and dedicated man.  Which is why she shouldn’t be surprised at my resistance to want to shed my vast collection of CDs.

My collection is 1,419 albums and box sets strong, consisting of both CDs and downloads. Recently I have converted back to vinyl (75 albums and growing) after decades of turning a deaf ear on their sonic brilliance. You can read through it all here in a live-list I created in a Google Doc: Judd’s Juke Joint. I update this whenever I add to it. There is also a tab for my music related DVD material as well. 

Before I go any further, let me say this: as far as I am concerned my collection is 99% fat free. While I do think that size matters, quality is of most importance. 

As you can see in the spreadsheet I am in the process of highlighting which albums are physical CDs and which are downloaded bits and bytes. In my rough estimate, just under 1,110 of my collection is in CD format (including box sets).  That is a quite a load to haul around the world with me. I am thinking of making a move that scares the shit out of me: junking all of my physical CDs.

I am entertaining this thought for a few reasons:
  1. The sheer volume of CDs is cumbersome to move (around the world or otherwise)
  2. The majority of the CDs are on my two Macbooks. One of which is dedicated to just play music wirelessly around my flat.
  3. Because of #2, I hardly ever go to pull a CD off the racks to play it…I do only if I haven’t already ripped it to my laptop
  4. My taste for vinyl.  
Why am I keeping all of these CDs?  I don’t know, really.  Part of it is that it is tangible. I love seeing this tower of CDs everyday. A lot of work and play (and $$$) went into amassing this collection. Yes, I am emotionally attached to all of that polycarbonate plastic.

Conversely, I LOVE sifting through my vinyl collection and physically playing and flipping records…which is not easier nor is it more convenient. This of course, is because the sound and the experience from vinyl is worth the effort. The CD experience in comparison is shit. Having to get up and move across the floor to flip the record is exciting…I am actively participating in the music. Yes, I am now emotionally attached to all of that beautiful black lacquer.

So, what is poor music fan to do, ‘cept to play some ol’ rock and roll bands…899.html”>heh heh.

Here is what I am thinking about doing if I decide to do anything at all:
  • Rip my entire physical CD collection to hard drives. I would put as much on my Macbooks as I can and the rest, in its combined CD and download glory, would be stored on external drives. I would back it up to as many as necessary until I feel secure. I could keep two on hand, get a safe deposit book for one and send one to my parents in New Hampshire for extra safe keeping.  And If all fails, I can bury one under a rock in Buxton, Maine for Red to dig up when he gets out of prison. 
  • I would then take all of the CD inserts/liner notes from each case and store them in a photo-album or something similar. This way I can have the info if I ever need it (this sounds like madness, doesn’t it…).
  • I could hook up my external drive to the computer and play everything and anything through my wireless network set up throughout my flat. This is also very convenient for mobile-music
  • I would find some young, deserving music fans and donate my CD collection to them. I would divvy it up into assorted chunks so that the recipients would get a good mix of blues, soul, country, etc.  If I do this, I might have to forgo keeping the CD inserts. 
This would leave me with all digital files, vinyl and box sets (I would keep those in physical form). I think…think…I could live with that.  But how would I buy music?  

Let’s use the last Bob Dylan album, “Together Through Life”, as a test case. I bought that on vinyl and it came with a CD of the tunes sans CD packaging fanfare. This is best of both worlds: my preferred vinyl in 180 gram goodness and a CD to rip to my digital collection…and I get to give the CD to a deserving music fan/friend. If the album had come with a code for download that would have been just as good.

Anyhow, this is where I am at with my collection. I am not in a hurry to decide. All I know is that my collection will only grow.  While I LOVE the thought that it will get out of hand, it could get physically unmanageable as I move from place to place. 

Are any of you in the same situation? What are your thoughts? How have you/would you act on this…if at all? How do you buy your music? What are the holes in my potential plan?

Tune Tags

I chose “Sparks” by The Who as the tune tag for this post. This was the song playing in the movie Almost Famous when a young William Miller was flipping through the vinyl collection left to him (…to liberate him!) by his sister.


11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Judd Marcello #

    That shelf in my closet is three rows deep of box sets and music related books. I didn’t even get to my books…so many! I’ll figure out what to do with them next.

  2. Judd Marcello #

    @dopeburger Yes! I forgot to mention the cloud! Of course that is something I would HAVE to do. I need a secure service (Google, once they offer it) & LOTS of bandwidth to upload it all. I would need to buy bulk bandwith at Costco or something like that. They need to offer cheep upload rates like calling plans. Go in there and book bandwidth for very cheap and then then turn that into points to use to shop in Costco. New idea for us Pete…Bandwidth Bars! Come in and upload tons of media for cheap bandwidth rates and have a few cocktails and food while you do it..and, or course, listen to the house band play the blues.

  3. dopeburger #

    dude, I’m in…we can start them on both sides of the pond. record companies should also give the option of mailing the CD booklet when you purchase a download. #justsayin

  4. Judd Marcello #

    @dopeburger I agree that we should get an option for something…mail or download. I like to know who is playing on what. You can get this with some albums from iTunes but not all. OK, Im researching the BandwidthBars. If oxygen bars can work. I think you should come over here and we can go to Amsterdam to test market. We can set up shop for a month and see how the concept work. Can you get a WV to sponsor this? We can have them provide financial support for the infrastructure. Why don’t they become everyone’s Vault. I’d store up all my music there. They can create algorithms to crawl my collection and then suggest items for me to purchase in the Vault via memberships. Storage is cheap. I would be suckered into buying all kinds of stuff. Get on it!

  5. Luke Harris #

    My bride encouraged me to do something about this situation also. I have been ripping them as FLAC files and selling them on amazon resale shop. Its a bitch. I would prefer to just give them away. Take a picture and post it on twitter, first response get’s it. A couple years ago a dropped 150-200 disc’s on a kid going off to college, thought it would give him a musical education while also giving him some clout with the ladies. The little shit hardly listened to any of them.If I gave more away I would do it one at a time, or a couple at a time.My master plan is to have an archive of FLAC files on a hard drive. Replicate that drive 2-3 times for friends. Right now its about 2TB which includes all the live shows I have been posting on my blog. Then also having mp3’s for playing on iPod and over iTunes.I need to get a new needle and set up my turntable again.

  6. Judd Marcello #

    @ozzybeef I agree on the Twitter idea. I was thinking of setting up somewhere in London and announcing I would be there on Twitter at a certain time and see whop came by.Your CD/college kid giveaway is commendable. The trick is finding a young’un who is just as inspired with music as you/and I are.To be honest…I am a novice on FLAC/advanced ripping, etc. I need to figure out how to do it and then plan accordingly. What do you rip them into…software/program?The more I think about this idea, the more I like it. The key thing for me is passing along the collection.p.s. I just checked out your blog. Love the “about” section as well as the rest. I’ll be a regular visitor from now on.For those of you who haven’t visited “It’s Great to Be Alive”, do so here:

  7. Luke Harris #

    Thanks for the kind words on my blog, Judd. Need to update it a bit more frequently.FLAC ripping is the same as mp3 ripping however none of the music quality is lost. The ripping program in called XLD and playback software is Cog.I have them in mp3 to play on iTunes as FLAC doesn’t work with it.Being in London have you tried Spotify? I have heard great tings about it but we don’t get it in the US. I think streaming it the way to go.

  8. Judd Marcello #

    @ozzybeef Gotcha on the FLAC. Will look at it. Spotify: yes, I use it and it is excellent. Would be cool if I knew more people with it as there are some sharing functions that would be great to try out. I also like to use it to try out new albums/potential purchases of older material.I read that they have delayed their US launch doe to BS issues with the labels they are aligned with.

  9. horring #

    Great piece, Juddmeister. A classic late noughties conundrum. You have some scary ideas, man! As you know, I too have a semi-monstrous CD collection that I keep telling myself is redundant and that I must do something. It’s now just a glorified static wall feature in my flat. I do love visitors marvelling at my collection, though. Seeing them eagerly finger the alphabetical music museum is such a buzz, though. Watching them scroll through my iTunes library just ain’t the same . . .

  10. Judd Marcello #

    @horring Ah, the Great and Powerful (music) Wizard from Oz checks in with his thoughts. I was waiting for you to chime in with your thoughts.Agreed, mate. The collection is centrepiece…a conversation starter…an affirmation of a life spent chasing down music. This is what scares me: the chase will always continue.The Great Magnet brought us together and stationed us at two of it’s out posts: my collection and yours. Remember when you came to my flat for the first time? We spent a couple hours and many beers spinning the racks and pulling out gems. We did the same with your collection as well.I like this as part of the listening and sharing experience, too. This is why I thought I would keep the CD inserts and putting them in a few CD binders. This way the collection can still be sifted through.I am seriously starting to lean this way. I won’t decide for a year or so. I might make music care packages and send them to friends all over the globe. The more I can spread the music (and my personal passion that went into collecting it) the better it will make me feel. I always say that the one thing I enjoy more than listening to and learning about music…is sharing it. Have you thought of what you may do?

  11. horring #

    The music world evolves just like every other world. No doubt. The outposts, as you so aptly described our physical collections, will also morph (and shrink). While it’s hard to imagine giving up my shelf space, I have thought about it recently. Getting ALL my CDs into iTunes will be the trigger I think. For as long as I have some stray gold lining the walls of my flat, the museum will stay. Like you, a controlled give-away would be the next step.I agree Judd, it’s the covers and liner notes that need a convenient and user-friendly home. Some kind of a coffee table scrapbook/album is the obvious solution I guess. But, with the CD/album dying, eventually this annoyance will be moot, too. We are the children of the revolution.Loved your ‘Costco’ cloud business plan, Judd! With almost 200Gb of toons on my back-up drive, there is no way I could ever upload from home — not while living in the metered land of Oz anyway. But if I could take my drive to a store (once), plug-in and upload via USB to a local cloud server, I’d do it. Making incremental updates from that point would be a breeze.


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