Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vehicles of Mass Music Consumption.

At the same time that I am in a full-on embrace of the newest way to consume music (Spotify/subscription music services in general) I have started buying CDs again.

I lost my extensive music collection (upwards of 500+ CDs, dozens of mixtapes, and a crate of records) in the tornado of 2011, but I didn't care much because all of that music lived on my laptop as 1s and 0s anyway.

But now, almost exactly 5 years after I spent the winter of 2011 re-ripping all my CDs in 320kbps, I'm beginning to collect CDs again. I don't have much in the way of what you'd call "disposable" income, so I'm not buying albums I already have. But new music I want to OWN, a concept we don't necessarily even have to partake of in a subscription music world anymore, I've been buying used.

While it's easier than it's ever been to acquire music; (with Spotify I pay a monthly fee of $10 and click on a little + sign next to any music I want to "add to my music") this music is not ours.

My new system of acquiring music goes something like this. I hear music I like. If I really like it, I click that little + button. If I listen to it repeatedly for days, weeks, months, I'll look for it used in the physical format of Compact Disc or Vinyl. If the vinyl comes with a digital download and I really really like it, enough to pay 20 bucks, I do so. More often, if the used CD costs roughly the same as buying the album from iTunes or Google Music digitally, I do that. Having that tangible item that is YOURS cannot compare to the ephemeral ownership of digital downloads. Don't even get me started on DRM...

When you get your new-to-you CD home with you and start to rip it into your digital world you get the choice to store it in any size of digital file you'd like. 320kbps is perfectly acceptable, but for the truly important albums, you can go lossless. That's when your digital music sounds just as good as the CD. This is truly important when you care about sound. When you have invested in a good stereo setup, headphones, etc. If you can tell the difference between a CD's sound quality and your digital files, then physical representations of music are still the way to go and I'm glad I'm going back as a way to go forward.

I still don't own a dedicated CD player unless you count the one in my car, which I don't, because I don't spend much time there at all. Listening to CDs will be difficult until I find a component CD player for my stereo, but I've got a little baby CD collection again, and while it's uneven and strange, it's mine and that's pretty cool. I can lend them to friends. I can put them back on my computer if my computer self-destructs. I can open them up and look at the artwork and read the lyrics.


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