A better home for less-loved compact discs (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.