A long time ago I used to buy music on cassette tape. I remember saving up for weeks at a time, going to the store and sorting through the rows of albums to decide which one tape I would buy that month. It was a big adventure, I had very little money and as a result, I had a small collection of music that the cool kids today would describe as carefully curated.
Then it was summer jobs and loads of cash spent at Best Buy on CDs. Within a pretty short window of time I amassed an unreasonable collection of CDs. I went on a six-month binge of music buying, but it didn’t take me a long time to realize that the majority of what I was buying was crap. One good song on a 12-song album. So I stopped, basically cold turkey, and started illegally downloading music. Like the CD-buying binge, it was a relatively short period of time where I amassed a significant amount of digital music for “my library.”
I think it was about a year after I had stopped buying CDs where I realized how stupid the whole cycle had become. I went from supporting every artist ever to no artists at all. I had amassed an unbelievable amount of digital stuff. While sure, I was discovering some new artists, for the most part I was just accumulating stuff that I would never listen to again (50,000 tracks would take roughly two weeks to listen through, non-stop).
I had to face up to my own consumptive mentality. Untangling from the need to acquire every new album became a focal point for a few weeks. So a few years ago I established some rules for myself. These rules are significant to me because they help me actually enjoy music a lot more often. Now that I have a sense of what is in my music library, I can choose music more effectively. Here are my rules.
Listen to an album multiple times before you buy it.
I got burned, a lot, by good singles on bad albums. I’m not doing that anymore! The only exception to this rule is if it is an artist that I absolutely love. There are only about ten artists that get this exception.
Buy it on vinyl.
This actually helps me keep purchases down. Vinyl has a sizable footprint and costs a decent amount (very few $7.99 deals on new vinyl!) so I end up only buying the most important, most favorite albums.
I added this recently, as I had been using a free streaming option before now, but I realized that this was a good way to support an artist in some way, discover new music, and keep my music options fresh.
So here’s the question. What about you? Are you doing anything differently with your music library than you were, say, five years ago?