One of the easiest things I’ve ever done is get rid of music. I’m no minimalist, never will be, but de-cluttering becomes quite addictive. Hey, I like stuff, and probably will always have too much of it – but books and records and CDs and DVDs (previously counted among the joys of my life) have been pretty easy to part with; to send back into circulation, allow someone else a chance with them.
It wasn’t always that way.
I can still remember the first time I had to get rid of some CDs. Had to. I was in debt. (Funny now to think they could ever be worth something to sell-on, right?) I owed the flat money. I couldn’t pay my bills. I had more CDs than any of my friends or flatmates. Someone made the decision for me – told me it was a possibility, a sensible option perhaps. I sat in front of the racks, I probably had 500 CDs or so. I could only choose two or three. Then a break for a cigarette. Then a nervous return to the room. After a few minutes I had 10 put aside to trade, then 15, 20…and after a second cigarette it became easy. I had collected up some rubbish, things I never listened to – and didn’t need. Things I would never return to. I got rid of about 50-60 CDs that next day. Paid the bills. And in talking it over with one of the guys in one of the music stores I regularly visited I was told that a collection – any – is like a garden. It does well, flourishes in fact, with a good prune.
But then I started reviewing music – and receiving loads of promo copies and advances. I reckon I had close to 6000 CDs when my collection was at its biggest. But I was always whittling away too. I’d buy up $1 CDs from the Real Groovy chuck-out bins because I was learning tunes for the covers bands I was in. But I’d get rid of a few other old soundtracks I never listened to, or I’d suddenly realise that I owned far too many Tori Amos CDs. Something like that.
Where we’re at now people are happy without even storing the files let alone some artefact. They’ll happily stream, their collection is stored on Spotify or whatever platform. It’s being stored for them. They tune in to podcasts or other curated playlists, they scroll YouTube, they have the radio and music TV as well (though less likely).
But there are also collectors out there. Still.
I have traded and given away most of my CDs and DVDs. I still have a few. Maybe I have more than some people ever owned. I don’t know. But I do know that the basis of my collection now is records. Vinyl. I’ve always had records but it was about 8 or 9 years ago now when the vinyl outweighed the other formats. Numbers-wise, I mean.
When I collected CDs I was meticulous. I had a list of every title, alphabetical – always. Then chronological within artist. This was before you could download and stream, so my collection was about research and reference – if I needed to find something it was easy to go to the shelf and dig it out straight away.
With records I’ve never done that.
Just recently I’ve been thinking about setting up a genre-based storage system. Handy for DJing, I figure. Have all the funk and soul in one area, a bunch of soundtracks, separate out the classical and maybe even do it by decades. Certainly put all the “eighties” things in one place.
But I don’t know.
I like the mild mess of not quite knowing where the exact record is going to be. That’s why I started the series of Vinyl Countdown posts. It’s about that random occurrence – finding records you’d forgotten about. I still have some records (only a few now, I would think) that I have never listened to; ones I’ve inherited, or an old bulk-buy.
You go to find your copy of a wonderful Wayne Shorter album and end up deciding that today’s the day you will revisit that appalling Billy Cobham album (that you only bought because you had to hear the cover of Prince’s Sign o’ The Times).
My records are like photo albums.
It’s my last bastion of collecting I think. As soon as we had a child I was making room for him – passing on books we’d read (we still have heaps, we love books, we’ll always have plenty but you reach a point – for me it was knowing Oscar was coming into the world – where you recognise you won’t make it through all of the books you haven’t yet read, the DVDs you haven’t yet watched, the music you plan to return to but never will…)
I’ve even ditched a bunch of vinyl – and will do it again. Last year I needed some cash – I sold four crates of records. It didn’t even hurt. It’s just stuff. Nice to have. But you can do without it. Most of it you never needed, the battle is with the version of yourself that says you might need it one day…
That said I read things like Alan Stuart’s wonderful ode to collecting and the chaos that is needed to nurture a collection and I realise I’m right to not genre-specify my records, to not date and place them, to simply leave them on the shelves in whatever order. Any time I need to dig for records to play in a pub it’s a chance to revisit the ripped covers of the last leftovers from the records my parents hung on to after the cull when they made room for me in their life. It’s a chance to think back to the wasted daze of university where we’d come home from the pub and play The Doors on my turntable, set the coffee table on fire with lighter-fluid for a bit of a laugh. It seemed easier than going to class – or having any. (It wasn’t).