by Michael Goldberg
Monday January 28, 2002
My Problem With CDs & Records
Learning how not to hoard music.
Recently I was cruising around a city some distance from where I now live, looking for a dark, unpopulated street. When I found one, I pulled the car over to the curb and doused the lights. Then I quickly removed a box filled with CDs from the trunk of my car and placed it on the sidewalk. I removed the lid, with the hope that passersby would see that the box was full of CDs and help themselves, and then I got back into my car and drove off.
You might think that leaving a box of a few hundred CDs on the sidewalk is a rather odd thing to do, and I agree that it is. What is, perhaps, even odder is that I had three more boxes in the trunk, each packed with CDs, and before I left the city, I'd left all of them behind.
I have too much music, and sometimes it feels like it's taking over. The CDs pile up on the floor of my office, on my desk, on the table where my stereo equipment sits.
For a music fan, this could sound like heaven, but for this music fan it's begun to feel more like hell. The other day I was going through one of the 40 or so boxes of CDs that I haven't unpacked since moving nearly two years ago, and I couldn't help but think about the fact that I hadn't missed any of them. And why should I? Most of the time when I listen to music, I listen to new music, music that's come out within the past year.
And yet I have, in one room, perhaps 5,000 (maybe more) record albums. In another, on shelves (not alphabetized, thus making it nearly impossible to find anything), are thousands of additional CDs. I won't even get into the storage space I rent where another two or three thousand record albums have sat for, oh, at least 10 years.
I think of myself as a fairly healthy person, but, objectively, there does seem to be something kinda sick about holding on to all this music that I will never, ever listen to. I mean, I can walk over to any of the shelves jammed with record albums and find albums that in the 10, 20, 30 years that I've had them, I have never played.
I am not alone. I recall reading once that one high profile rock critic you'd know his name rented an entire second apartment just for his records. I once visited the home of the owner of a small record store; it looked like a room at the public library; the shelves filled with records weren't just against the wall, they were freestanding in rows, filling the rest of the room too. Every room of the apartment of one critic I know was so filled with CDs and records the last time I stopped by that you could barely move about in it.
Why do we hoard music? I know that when I decide I need to get rid of some of this stuff, I carefully consider each album that I might be willing to part with. But what if I decide I need to hear that song, I think? My rational mind tells me that, most likely, if I ever did get a craving for something by, say, The Manhattans I have a half dozen of their albums, perhaps more, and have only listened to maybe one, once, perhaps a decade ago I could always go to the record store. Like I said, it's a problem.
This is what I tell myself as I load the CDs into boxes: You haven't ever listened to that album. You probably won't ever listen to that album. It doesn't matter that, 10 years ago, you read a positive review of it, or it's a group that you think you might, someday, decide to write about, or you like the cover. Realistically, you will likely never listen to it. It's taking up space. In your house, in your mind.
Which brings me to a point I wanted to make, which is that all these CDs and records and old music magazines (yeah, those too) don't just take up physical space, they take up space in your (my) mind. They make me feel kind of oppressed, overwhelmed, like my physical environment is kinda out of control, and thus my internal environment is too.
So I've been going through those 40 boxes, loading everything I can possibly bear to part with into other boxes and lugging them to the used record stores. This is a colossal waste of time. But it must be done. And guess what. Oftentimes, if I show up with three boxes of CDs, it turns out they can only use perhaps half a box. Which is cool. It means I get some credit that I can use to purchase those new CDs, the ones I do listen to. But then I've got these boxes of CDs in my trunk.
Well, had some boxes of CDs in my trunk. Last I saw them, they were on the sidewalk, just waiting for someone to take them home.