What Have You Done With Your CD Library? (If You’ve Done Anything With It?)

Jul 2nd, 2009 // 32 Comments

One of our wonderful commenters posed this question in the wake of finding out that people were actually plunking down money for digital copies of Michael Jackson albums: What are people doing with their CD libraries these days–keeping them, transitioning over to digital storage, shifting to vinyl, or giving up on the whole idea of “owning” music altogether and switching over to a streaming service?

It’s an interesting question for me at this precise moment, because I’m actually apart from my physical-music library and am relying on a hard drive of stuff to take me through the next few months; I’m supplementing the occasional purchase on iTunes and Amazon, and my eMusic downloads, with a Rhapsody subscription for the purposes of test-driving new things that haven’t been marked down to a “I’ll give this a whirl” threshold. It’s definitely strange, because I’ve been collecting CDs fairly obsessively since I got my first five-disc changer in ninth grade (which was when I also worked two doors down from a used-CD store that gave me a nice discount on its wares… and I got paid in cash).

I haven’t sold any discs off yet; I wonder just how much money I’d get for them, because I’d imagine the used-CD market has softened as people either go digital or just allocate their spending resources to non-music-related purchases. But at least if people won’t take my old copies of Resident Alien and Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, I have options:

[Thanks to Throwdini! for the inspiration. Photo via fabbriciuse.]
Recycle Junk Cd’s – Make A Disco Ball! [Metacafe]

  1. I spend too much of my money on new CDs, some used-CDs (there are some fantastic deals), and I will buy mp3s for B-sides, remixes, and hard-to-find material. I listen mostly on my computer, but use CDs in the car. I would never pay to download an artist’s album if there was an affordable hard copy available (and in some cases, a used CD is cheaper than the download).

    I intend to keep all my CDs (except for the ones I hate or never listen to) and one day, when I have a grown-up job, I’ll buy a rack for all my jewel cases.

  2. I still have all of my CDs, but I bought they are all (for the most part, classical excepted) loaded onto my iPod. I had to buy a larger iPod to hold everything, but I love having my entire collection at my fingertips. That said, I have bought some CDs through itunes and downloaded miscellaneous live/rare songs….
    But the CDs remain. I buy the soft cover books and usually ditch the jewel boxes… but I still have them in storage.

  3. “but I bought they are”?

    “but they are all”

  4. btw, the “I’ll give this a whirl” threshold was reached by the Jeremih album on Monday, when it was $2.99 on Amazon.

  5. I’ve kept all my CDs but ditched the jewel boxes and put them in the softcover albums–also last year ripped everything to my hard drive. New music I almost always buy as mp3s somewhere, but I make the occasional physical CD purchase, especially if I’m somewhere with a great record store, because I like bringing shit home in bags, dangit.

  6. Between DVDs, video games, and books, I already have enough things adorning walls and racks around my tiny apartment. I put my 600+ CDs in oversized albums and pull them out when I feel the need to rip em or listen to them. Jewel cases were tossed (the liner notes were saved). Special cases (cardboard & whatnot) were boxed up and put in a closet.

    And I don’t buy MP3s. When I want new music I walk down to the used record shop where great, recent music can often be found for between $2.50 and $5.00.

  7. As more and more material moves into the digital arena, I find myself more and more attached to physical projects. I don’t necessarily think it’s a kneejerk reaction. I’m not a vinyl junkie, though I grew up with LPs. But I don’t feel like I’m getting the complete piece of art if I download. I need something to hold, even if it’s as small as a CD.

    I also don’t like the shuffle function on MP3 players — it’s way to jarring for my ears. That is, unless I’m doing a shuffle for a single artist with a relatively consistent catalog, like Springsteen, Sonic Youth, Neko Case. I mostly listen to full albums on my MP3 player, start to finish.

    All tendencies, I’m sure, that just reflect my age (39).

  8. As any number of friends of mine know my CD library is a bit…large. (The term “Raggettstacks” was coined some time ago.) That said I’ve actually been reducing it bit by bit over the years, as I sold off CDs in waves just to clean the place up a bit — even so, however, we’re talking a huge amount. I had always had vague ideas about making some sort of continuing archive out of it, but wasn’t too sure what the best approach would be — while I work for a university library, I didn’t necessarily know if there would be interest in it here, especially since it is fairly idiosyncratic.

    That all said, at the end of last year for a variety of reasons I decided it was time to bite down hard and make arrangements to pass most of it on, outside of a variety of discs kept for their rarity (especially CDRs and limited run efforts), for sentimental reasons or just because I could never see myself actually parting with them under any circumstance. It’s still a fair amount of discs but the amount of what I wanted to let go completely overwhelmed it.

    After thinking about selling it all off in a heap, then chatting with a couple of friends who urged me to consider finding some way to keep it together, a good notion occurred — I still live near where I did college radio all these years, and am in touch with both current station staff and a couple of old veterans still there. So I decided to see if there was any interest on their part for a donation of discs — I’m pleased to say that there was. Since then I have been engaged in a thorough effort to back up each of my discs (and make backups of the backups) with an eye to completing the mass donation by the end of the year.

    By giving the collection to an organization that is dedicated to music, as well as to maintaining a deep catalog, I figure that it’s the best of both worlds — doubtless there will be some duplication but there’s always room to fill some gaps, while any extras could conceivably be used for fundraising efforts or the like. Either way, by benefiting the station, both now and in the future, I like to think that I’ve made a positive contribution to an organization where I made and maintained friendships to this day, and which in no small part shaped who I am as a listener as much as a DJ and presenter. Lord knows I spent a large amount of time scrounging through the station archives turning up music I’d never heard of before — why not encourage this cycle to continue, and to help secure the role of such stations to continue to share out music to listeners?

    Financially this option might not be everyone’s — especially now. But I’d encourage people who might have this option to hand to consider it. On top of which, frankly, I look forward, given all that I do have, to not having to move any of it ever again when I do my next inevitable house move, whenever that will be!

  9. I’ve kept all my CDs, for two reasons:
    1) I don’t trust the soft legality of “owning” MP3s
    2) The sound quality of CDs still beats the vast majority of MP3s, at least to my ancient ears.

    I do buy MP3s, because it’s a lot more convenient (and usually cheaper) than trekking over to the increasingly-rare record store, but I remain suspicious enough to have a huge IKEA cabinet for all my CDs.

  10. @NedRaggett: that’s quite lovely of you.

  11. @mbenning: And I don’t buy MP3s. When I want new music I walk down to the used record shop where great, recent music can often be found for between $2.50 and $5.00.

    Echoing this — there’s been a slight irony given my larger plan there since I’ve actually be *scrounging* clearance bins like mad at Amoeba and elsewhere, as there’s an astonishingly good amount of things to be found there now with a little patience. But rather that buying things to keep, I am ripping them with an eye to, again, turning them around to be part of the overall donation.

  12. I still buy used CDs occassionally, but I subscribed to the Zune Pass, which has largely killed my need to buy physical media. If I really like an album, I’ll buy it on vinyl.

    The vast majority of my CDs haven’t been touched in over a year, but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them. A lot of them aren’t in CD cases, so the resale value is pretty close to nil. Can’t bring myself to throw them away though, because … really.

  13. @slowburn: Me too!

    I am kind of doing all of the things Maura asks about.

    My fiance and I are in the process of combining music collections and getting rid of duplicates & things that are cheaper to have on CD or mp3. I still buy CDs and LPs, but mostly used, except for those (mostly major label) things I can’t get on emusic, am too cheap to get on iTunes, or want to OWN physical copies of because I love them. I don’t really buy new vinyl because it’s often pricier than new CDs and seriously, LPs are fucking annoying to move.

    We have 3 giant CD racks from Target that aren’t ugly & take up a whole wall. Our records are in a bunch of random vintage pieces of furniture mr robots’ parents buy him in their small town thrift stores. It’s kind of nice to see the CDs all in once place. But I don’t want to buy more CD storage than this (I want better LP storage that isn’t in 3 rooms). I would prefer to weed out our collection constantly, selling things off or giving them away or whatever. Most CDs are on a 1 terrabyte external hard drive as well, though I really think they sound better in our stereo than on our ipods. Not that I trust this hard drive to last forever!

    I love digital music as well because I tend to take risks on things and get stuff on a whim. Sometimes I don’t enjoy it, but other times I am so thankful that I got drunk that night and downloaded _______. I don’t do that as much at record stores because I am usually sober when I go and I am really really cheap and less likely to risk a $5 used CD than 10 downloads from emusic.

  14. Woo hoo, I’m a “wonderful” commenter! Thanks Maura. (Now I’m glad I made a Nationals joke in the thread, and not a Mets joke.)

    Great comments so far about what people are doing with their cds as the music industry transitions to the new(est) delivery/storage system. I have to say, I’m going back and forth between keeping everything boxed up in case my double backup system fails and selling them to a used cd store for cash to buy more downloads.

    That said, Ned’s idea about donating them to a college radio station is pretty interesting. (One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t try to get involved in my college’s radio station.) I do like the idea of letting others be exposed to music that I think is great.

    Anyway, I look forward to hearing what everyone else is doing with their cds.

  15. I still have all my CDs although I only buy vinyl records now. I’ve never bought an MP3 in my life. If I’m going to pay for music, I don’t want to get a thin, compressed version of what the artist spent so much time making sound rich and full.

  16. I’m a PD at a college radio station, I’d be more than happy to give a home to your excess media. wbimpd@gmail.com or seanrmccolgan@gmail.com

  17. @NedRaggett: That’s a really wonderful idea. I just graduated from a college experience spent largely in a dingy, underground radio station, and the CD and vinyl library there was a godsend. Time forgets about a lot of what a college station gets and collects (much of it quite good), and I was always more inclined to play something I could hold and look at.

    It’s a weird time for college radio stations: the switch to digital delivery has caused a steep drop in the number of physical CDs we receive. Our station continues to struggle with this transition, and so the idiosyncratic library has become an even greater asset. Plus, at least in the Twin Cities market, the prominence of a certain AAA station means that playing the new Wilco record is redundant. For me, the idiosyncratic, underground stuff–past and present–is the way forward.

    Anyways I’m 22 and one of two people I know who still buys CDs. I might be an old soul, but if I spend money on music, I want to be able to hold it. Buying mp3s–which I do occasionally–just feels like buying air to me.

  18. Thanks to the folks who have sent kind comments — a point about what moulty has raised, about ‘time forgetting’ — an interesting corollary to all the ripping I’ve done is all the rediscovery of all the music I’ve had sitting around and, often, hadn’t played in years. Some music turns out to be richer than you remember, other music far less fascinating than it seemed — the usual story, perhaps. But it was the act of going through everything that prompted me to relisten in the first place, and there’s something rewarding there.

  19. “Buying MP3s just feels like buying air to me.”
    Perfectly put!

    I’ve got 1,000+ CDs and I don’t plan on parting with them.
    Nearly all of my day-to-day listening is done either on my iTunes Library, or the MP3 CD-RWs I make (and remake) for my car, but I still wanna hold on to the original CDs as well, mainly for two reasons:
    1) I’m one of those retro-fans who enjoys the artwork, liner notes, the whole package and 2) I’m terrified at the thought of ever having to rebuild my collection from scratch, and if I’ve only got a bunch of files on my computer with no physical backup, a data loss would reallllly suck. (Hard drive failure seems much more likely than losing my entire physical collection to theft, fire, etc. And if there IS theft, fire, etc. I’ve probably got bigger things to worry about anyway.)
    I’ve done plenty of downloading, but only for stuff that’s otherwise unavailable, or artists with just one or two good songs, etc. If I want a whole disc’s worth of product, I buy the disc (hell, I’m willing to buy a merely HALF-good disc most of the time). Of course, without used stores, I would never have gotten very far in the first place.

  20. @NedRaggett: Just gonna chime in with the other comments re: the coolness & thoughtfulness of your project. I’d love to do the same thing with my local library (it’s a small town, and they’ve got a depressingly small selection), but as I’ve been to several different library systems in my life, and have never once seen a homemade copy of anything, I’m betting they’re not allowed to make CD-Rs of music (or anything else, for that matter) available to the public.
    Unfortunately, the idea of donating an original CD to a library is too much for me (unless it’s one I’m getting rid of anyway), since people are so heartbreakingly careless with CDs (and DVDs) when it’s a library item. It’s amazing how badly damaged they are sometimes (“were you TRYING to destroy this piece of plastic?”)

  21. @Halfwit: I went through a good many years of not taking care of my CDs. They’d float around the car or sit on my shelf in stacks (sans case). A while back I did sell off some albums that hadn’t been removed from their plastic in over five years of ownership, but the vast majority of my CDs are in such poor shape that they’d never get accepted as trade. The odd thing, though, is that they play/rip just fine.

  22. When I buy a CD I usually rip it to my computer and it’s never opened again. That being said I will continue to buy CDs (or LPs preferably) because I like having a physical product. My CDs are in crates in my attic, while my LPs adorn shelves in my room.

  23. I have around 3,000 plus physical CDs with the occasional digital free downloads from artists who have yet to release an album or are merely biding their time till they get signed. I have some minor vinyl, but a definite urge for collecting keeps me buying weird collectors editions; such as last years UNKLE special edition and I just got in the Dark Night of the Soul which surprisingly came in a huge ass coffee table book.

    I actually boxed up around 3-400 of the albums that I got when i was younger that had fallen out of favor for me and was looking too offload them on the local Zia’s out here in Vegas.

  24. @Maura: I’m listening to that for free right now, thanks to my boyfriend’s loud-ass neighbors.

    I used to have a CD player in the car, as lately as my Fever Ray/Bat For Lashes/Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Merge Covers Album/Other Things I Don’t Remember Right Now spree in March. But then the car died, and with it my only reliable way of listening to CDs. So now I mainly listen to mp3s, although I don’t actually have a ton of albums on there, so I spend most of my time doing things like ‘Let me listen to 11 different versions of Windmills Of Your Mind’ in a row,’ or ‘Hey, I wonder how many songs I have dated 1989.’ Which is actually getting pretty tiresome.

  25. @sinceyoubeensean: You’re lucky. At the station I’m at we don’t have the physical space for the CDs and vinyl we have already…

  26. I still have about 250 CDs. All of which I consider to be “absolutely essential”. If you include my girlfriend’s collection, we have about 300. And this is after we removed albums neither of us wanted after we merged our collections when we moved in together. Somehow, between us we had managed to acquire 10 copies of Jewel’s “Pieces of You”, an album neither one of us likes.

    Interestingly, one of them is in fact “Resident Alien” by Spacehog.

  27. since we’re about to move from columbus to an obviously much smaller apartment in NYC, i’ve used the opportunity to kick my ripping CDs to mp3s into overdrive. I probably have about 3,000 CDs and before we move I hope to get it down to 1,000…. and I hope to get even smaller than that… Keeping just my favorite CDs, rare stuff, etc… selling it off to used cd stores across the city.

    Vinyl buying is up, though…. so I am keeping some physical attachment. vinyl buying is WAY UP actually.

    I also believe that 90% of the people who say they love CDs for the artwork/liner note never look at this stuff after they buy it.

  28. Funny, I just had this conversation the other day–before Throwdini’s idea for this weekend. A friend of mine moved, and in doing so tossed his 300 CD disc changer, heralding (for him) the end of his CD years. The discussion became, are physical formats doomed now? He has gone post-CD, but still buys DVDs like candy, with no urge to switch to Blu-ray, which he says merely “losing last” in the format wars.

    I switched to the mp3 format early on– December 2000, right out of college when I got napster. I tossed all my jewel boxes, uploaded everything into the computer, and moved my cds and their accompanying artwork into a couple of 150 cd binders for posterity. CDs I discovered I didn’t love as much as I thought became art projects (I have a cd beaded curtain that still remains from that time period that I would upload a picture of if I knew how), and thought I was so cool and mod and trendy for doing so.

    Four years later I left my SO and in doing so realised the computer was his and I couldn’t take it. I ran out and bought 3 100-stacks of CDs and spent nearly a week wall-to-wall burning EVERYTHING off of it to take with me. Album details were lost, cds labeled with hastily scrawled descriptions, artists lumped together in an effort to make every minute of each CD count. Every original CD I could round up was herded back into the 150 CD binders, artwork and CDs rarely paired properly in an effort to keep it all.

    Five years later the collection still hasn’t recovered fully. I bought, along with my laptop, an external harddrive and uploaded everything into it en masse. Some of it has been edited and abeled properly, but much remains “lumped” I discovered this week in going through my Michael Jackson that everything (Everything–three 72minute cds worth!) is still labeled as being off the Thriller Album, despite only owning the four main songs from Thriller, and some of it being other Janet’s, requiring an hour of research and editing to artwork and label each song properly in the harddrive and iTunes, before I could then purchase what songs I discovered I was missing.

    Even with everything uploaded and safely housed in a small metal brick that I can carry in a backpack, I still have the CDs, as badly labeled and incoherently collected as they are. There’s no way to sell them, and no one would want them. And yet the idea of losing them seems as bad a short term idea as when I first discarded the jewel cases nine years ago and started using CDs to make silly statements on the 20th century being passe.

    But nearly everything I’ve bought since is all mp3–either iTunes or other. (Seriously, the last physical CD I bought was Annie Lennox “Songs of Mass Destruction”–totally on impulse at a Starbucks because I had no idea she had an album out.) And buying music from the comfort of my living room with a click of a mouse and boom, there it is is just so…easy. I don’t ever listen to CDs anymore anyway–even my car has an mp3 jack for an iPod.

    That being said, I should probably buy a second harddrive and make backups…

  29. I’ve been boxing up all my CDs, a couple thousand, making room for a nursery. Can’t really justify taking up wall space with them anymore, since 99% of my listening is digital, and increasingly my new purchases are digital as well.

    One thing that really hit home when I was boxing them up, though, was all the price labels and stickers from the various used stores I’d built my collection over the years…seeing the Amoeba, Wazoo, Etherea, et al stickers really brought me back to the place and time I bought them…

  30. 10,000 plus CDs. Liner notes, artist credits are a must, and when I want to hear an album first cut to last, hearing it on CD keeps me from the shuffle mode.

  31. I’m actually just finishing a big spring cleanup (well, it began in the spring anyway), transferring cds to binders (keeping the booklets in the binders as well, and the back covers in a couple of small IKEA boxes) and selling a few hundred cds that I didn’t care for anymore. While the shelf space I’ve gained from doing this is pretty remarkable (I went from 10 shelves with cds to a dozen 200-cd binders, which only fill up two shelves), now I’m stuck with ten green bags of cd cases in the basement that will have to wait there until Toronto’s garbage strike, which is entering its fourth week today, finally ends.

  32. I moved a lot over the last few years and my collection of 900-1000 CDs began to be too much to move, and store. I used a service in Chicago called eDropOffExpress.com, which sold my discs in blocks of 200. I ended up making almost $1000 dollars from the sale (after their fees) and while it was sad to give up the physical copies, I put them all on my computer and have multiple back-ups in case on of my hard-drives failures. I actually listen to my music more now that it is organized on my computer :-), half the time I forgot what CDs I had collected over the years…

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