A better home for less-loved compact discs (CDs)

A stack of music CDs

As an avid fan of music, I collected a lot of CDs. And cassettes. At some point in the past year, it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I put a CD into a CD player.

There are a few things I observed:

  • I don’t have a CD player. I do, however, have a combined unit that is mainly a record/vinyl player that does play CDs. But I don’t play CDs on that. I play vinyl records and occasionally plug my phone in and play music form my phone.
  • I often bought CDs, copied the content to my computer, and then never touched the CD again.
  • I have the newest MacBook Pro. It doesn’t even have a CD drive.
  • It recently occurred to me that since buying my car in June 2014, I have had the same CD in the car’s CD player and never taken it out. For the record, it’s Velociraptor’s self-titled album, and yes, it plays every time I get in my car and I am not sick of it.
  • I like vinyl records. So there was a bit of irony in that I wanted to get rid of CDs and cassettes, but not vinyls.

Why I like vinyl

I’m a huge fan of vinyls because of the sound quality and because they seem a little more fun to collect than CDs. My vinyl collection is not massive, but as a lover of music, I feel like vinyls are a bit of a gift to myself when I love an album enough to buy it on a giant disc.

Most vinyls have reduced in price these days – rare ones will cost $50 or more, but more and more artists are releasing their music on it, for an affordable price of $30. Which used to be the price of a CD ten years ago! Albums on CD have not changed much in price, they are perhaps about $20 now.

Building a ‘collection’

I built a collection of CDs because I shopped a lot in the bargain bin and at second hand stores, wanting to own the entire discography of The Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. I think I do own every Nirvana album on CD except the greatest hits one (because all those songs are on the other albums anyway). I even have the special box set of singles, a couple of DVDs and some live-recorded albums (bootlegs?) from 1992 that were never officially released. Obsessed would be the correct word. I started getting them on cassette, then vinyl, before deciding that it was a bit redundant to have everything on every medium. It might have been worth a lot of money in some time, but the truth is, I wasn’t willing to keep a complete collection of things just to sell them later on.

I was happy with just the CDs, and just having Nevermind (my favourite Nirvana album, and a true classic) on vinyl. Maybe because I already had the CDs in a full collection, they were much ‘easier’ to deal with keeping.

That’s the thing about collecting. Sometimes your collections may never be complete. And to me, eventually, I realised that having a lot of CDs wasn’t something I valued anymore.

A story in each disc

When artists create albums, they usually have stories intwined in the lyrics, in the music, in the album art. I had about a hundred CDs that I collected over time, and every few months I would revisit my collection and decide which ones I didn’t like anymore.

I began to notice my smaller collection encompassing a bunch of stories. I could hold up each disc and realised that I could tell a story about it. How I came to like a band, stop liking them, or how I went to a concert and had a great experience, maybe even had that CD signed. Maybe the music on it meant a lot to me.

It became harder to get rid of CDs that had stories attached to them. In my mind I constantly thought about how no one else would have the same story and these CDs would be forgotten.

But I didn’t have to part with the story. I was just parting with the CD. I could always find and listen to the music on my computer or phone, and I could always tell that story without really needing the CD as a reminder.

There are some things we can readily let go of and remember their stories without needing to hold it in our hand. Sure, that Velociraptor CD is in my car, and automatically plays every time, but I’ve not looked at the CD case in over a year. I remember all the lyrics and the order of the tracks. If someone removed that CD and played the music to me, it would still be the same experience. The same experience of getting into my car and hearing Velociraptor every time.

A better home

I don’t agree with everything going digital, but I have to agree that with music readily accessible digitally, it has made my decision to get rid of some CDs a lot easier. After thinking about how much I didn’t like just putting the CDs in the bin, a donation bin or the local second-hand store, I realised how better I would feel if I could give them to someone.

I ended up giving them to my friend Matt before Christmas last year. I would say it was like a nice Christmas gift. I remembered that he always scrounged in the corners of music stores at the forgotten CDs of local artists. We have similar tastes in music, and I knew that he would appreciate it.

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but I have to admit that it feels far better to physically be able to give your unwanted items to someone who will like them, compared to just donating it and hoping like hell or chewing your lip wondering if someone did end up liking them.

CD photograph by Brian Fauth.

Comments on this post

“I often bought CDs, copied the content to my computer, and then never touched the CD again.”
HA. This sounds like me!! I would buy an album in hard copy because I really loved the band and wanted the collection, or because I wanted the lyrics booklet (believe it or not, some bands/artists still do this!). Usually I’ll only buy a CD now if I happen to be in JB Hi-Fi, see it and impulse buy it, and if I haven’t already bought it on iTunes, which is where I buy EVERYTHING now.

I no longer have a CD player either. I don’t have anything I can play CDs on except the computer or in a car. I don’t have my own car yet as I’ve mentioned before but I drive one of my parent’s cars, and I’ll grab a few CDs from my extremely large collection lol and listen to them. I can’t wait until I get my own car; then I’ll rotate all my favourites, and finally get some use out of them instead of them sitting there getting dusty.

In fact I have so many CDs that it’s pointless buying a CD rack to store them in. I ended up buying some nice storage boxes from Kikki K ages ago. Even then, that wasn’t enough because I still do buy the odd CD every now and then, as aforementioned lol….

That’s really nice that you gave away your CDs to your friend :) I’m sure he would have really appreciated it. One day people will look at a CD the same way we look at cassette tapes now! Bit of a scary thought, actually….

I love lyrics booklets! Most of the time you can find them online but it makes me sad when I like a lesser-known artist and cannot find the lyrics anywhere. I have had to ask artists personally sometimes…!

I had a lot of CD storage racks and boxes but now I have gotten to the point where my favourites fit into one small one. I couldn’t imagine moving out with so many CDs and it felt refreshing to rid of a lot of them. I think we’re starting to see CDs as very much dead already. :(

For a long time I was a crazy collector of CDs and was really against downloading anything digitally (probably because my internet was also really slow). I loved finding bargain CDs like you and looking at the artwork inside. I still have a huge box of the CDs I own, but I have everyone on my computer as well that was imported. My computer doesn’t have a CD drive either and at first it felt so weird.

It’s wonderful that you still have connection with vinyl and that you really enjoy them. I think it’s lovely to see that it is something that never died. It kind of carries a whole feeling and generation with it. While CDs, feel like they only had a limited purpose, a means to get to the next thing.

Thanks for sharing your musical collection history. :D

I have way too many CDs and nothing to play them on. I replaced my DVD player with a PS4 which doesn’t play CDs. Like you, I also just put them on my laptop. It’s way easier than putting a disc in every time you want to listen to a song. Keeping my CDs for the sentimental value though! Hahaha

I also can’t remember the last time I played a CD. My parents are off to see Bryan Adams in concert in this year and I when my dad said to me “I think I’ll buy of his CDs to get into the mood” I laughed and questioned why he wouldn’t just download the songs. It’s kind of crazy how times change. I really don’t know what to do with my unwanted CDs.

I collect vinyls too, mainly because I have so much fun digging through boxes and boxes of second hand vinyls in vintage shops! I love the crackling noise old records make and also the smell of an old sleeve! I’m strange like that.

Lots of people tell me to download the songs, it’s quite funny. My dad still buys CDs because he listens on a CD player and doesn’t really use a computer. I still get tempted to buy CDs for local bands because I want to support them and sometimes you cannot find their music online. But then I remind myself that I don’t even have a slot in my computer to copy the songs… ah, it’s a funny situation. Some of them have download codes these days! And I find that a lot of new vinyls do, too.

Oh man I don’t find that strange at all, the smell of old books and records makes my insides melt. :D

I pretty much did the same thing with my CDs after buying and now I’m not sure where all my CDs went; I think I may have left everything when I moved for graduate school. I have not heard music directly played from a vinyl, but I hear it’s great sound quality especially with the technology we have now.

Good for you for having the entire Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins collection; that is AWESOMMMMMEE!! <3

I love that you gave your CDs to a good friend who can really appreciate them. Whenever I’m giving stuff away, I always worry that someone might not really appreciate. I had some magazines I didn’t want to give to just anyone but eventually just let them go. The stories are still there, like you said. :)

I can’t even remember the last time I bought a CD! I just download the mp3 versions, even though everyone says CDs sound better. I just don’t have the space and it’s one less thing I have cluttered around! I remember my sister had HUGE stacks and stacks of CDs and I wanted to be just like her! She gave me a lot of them when she was going through her collection and then I passed them on, too.

Awwww </3 it's great that you gave your CDs away but that must have been hard to do since you were collecting them for so long! Sometimes I'm sad that CDs, books, DVDs all have been taken over by iTunes, Kindles, and Netflix, but it's all for convenience's sake and the market! I guess that means artists and entertainers have to include their stories digitally as well! It's not the same, but it's the way the market goes on. :(

I own a lot of CDs from my childhood too but as of now, I haven't had a CD player since I was 14 and I also have the new Macbook (which even makes my Adobe CD obsolete unless I share a CD drive over the network), and my mom's car doesn't even have a CD drive anymore! Bye bye CDs …

This is so funny because I was just thinking of this recently! I have moved into the digital world too and I also have the most recent Macbook Pro and haven’t had a reason to play a CD in forever. I have a Spotify Premium account and buy my music online.

Then I bought a new car. Well, a newish car. It only had a CD player and no aux jack. Haha! I had my mom send me all my old CDs and now I am rocking out. It’s nostalgia central in my car and I love it so much!

Also, album art is the best. <3

That is so funny! I think I have an aux jack in my car, but I have bluetooth as well so I can just connect my phone via bluetooth if I want to play songs on it. Nick and I had a shared Spotify Premium account but he traded it in favour of Apple Music. I thought about which was better than the other but it’s just the same thing really, music in the cloud… haha.

I have a huge CD collection. 5 boxes full. Some (maybe 10?) in my car but I usually only listen to the the same CD over and over in my car or the radio. Some of my CDS are signed in person by the artist, either on the sleeve or the disc itself and I have a small but growing collection on vinyls. Like you, I prefer them.

Most of my CD collection is NOT on my laptop or mobile phone but I’ve probably not listened to a lot of them in years. I tend to go through the 1000s of songs that did make it on to my laptop and / or phone.

I don’t think I’d get rid of my collection, I don’t want to bin it and some of the CDS have sentimental value / memories.