About three years ago or so I actively started using the iTunes Store to buy most of the music I listen to. I rarely buy CDs anymore, although I still will — but I’ve set very different criteria compared to the days before the iTunes Store became as useful to me as it has. Mainly I reserve my CD purchasing for stuff I want to make sure I have pristine archives of — music that’s important to me, artists that I consider my favorites, or content that I think will sound much better on CD than MP3/AAC.
But realistically, for about 80 percent of my purchases, the iTunes Store is perfectly sufficent. Whether it’s a pop song I can’t get out of my head or an album by an artist I’m not sure if I like, I’m willing to put up with the DRM limitations and relatively low bit-rate.
Now, before we had kids, I bought a lot of music on CD. I think when we got married I had about 550 CDs, plus probably another 100 of Bonnie’s, and by the time I started switching my purchases to the iTunes Store, I think I can safely say that I bought another 300 or 400. That’s in a span of about a decade and a half, and for a music lover, I really don’t think that’s a lot. I never got rid of many of my discs, though. If I tired of something, I’d put it away, into storage — I never sold back my old CDs to used record shops. Just never much saw the point in it. I’m not a collector, by any stretch, and I’m certainly not a completist. Just a musical pack-rat, really. Figured just because I didn’t want to listen to it today doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to listen to it, say, five years from now.
What’s irritating is that I’ve lost track of some of the music I really adored, and it’s stuff I want to hear again, and it’s stuff I can’t find. It’s undoubtedly around. I’m just not sure where.
Having kids changed things. I used to keep every CD I owned in a beautiful fruitwood rack that stood as tall as me. I had everything organized alphabetically by artist name (last name, first in the case of solo artists) and then subcategorized alphabetically by album name. It was a terrific system. Maybe not the greatest for just finding random stuff to listen to, but I always knew where stuff was.
My friend Joe and I argued on this point — he felt that artist collections should be subdivided chronologically (“Rubber Soul belongs between Help and Yesterday and Today, not after Revolver!”). Yeah, I know, it’s a flash from the movie High Fidelity, to be sure. Some of my friends tell me they’re surprised I’m not a musician given the depth and breadth of my musical nerdiness sometimes.
Then Robert came along. As a toddler, he took great joy in knocking all the CD jewel cases to the floor. I had to buy replacements because they’d break. But still I kept up the system.
Then Emme came along. And she decided when she was a toddler to mess with daddy’s CDs.
By the time James came along in 2000, I’d given up hope of keeping my CDs categorized. I swear, moving to MP3s was partly a relief because it meant the kids couldn’t screw up my collection any more. To this day, alphabetized by artist and subcategorized by album name is how I prefer to keep my “virtual” collection of music.
Anyway, I recently went looking for my collection of Love and Rockets stuff — the band that three guys from Bauhaus ultimately formed after Peter Murphy started his solo jaunt — and I’m damned but I can’t find it anywhere. Apparently I haven’t ripped any of my Love & Rockets stuff to MP3 on any Mac that I have in the house, and have no idea where the discs are. Same goes for Wire’s A Bell Is A Cup Until It Is Struck, and that REALLY pisses me off.