Every now and then — and this is becoming more and more rare — I acquire music the way I did back in 1985: I buy a CD. Generally it only happens when I’m purchasing from the actual artist: I’m at a concert and he or she is selling CDs. A couple years ago in Europe we saw a pair of magnificent street accordion players, and instead of giving them a couple euros as a tip, we bought a CD for 15. Of course, that’s low-tech even for these guys. Now they’re on YouTube:
But as soon as I get home with my CD, the first thing I do with it is rip it onto my computer, where it can be shared across my entire home network, copied onto iPods, and played wherever I go. Other than the ones built into computers, we only have two CD players any more — one in the kitchen that’s actually used primarily as a set of speakers for music played wirelessly over our network, and one in our 1994 Plymouth Voyager.
We have a large collection of CDs in the living room, sorted by genre, which almost never get pulled off the shelf. There’s a pile of them in the kitchen next to the CD player, typically only used by visiting grandparents.
Yet still, when I get a new CD, I’m reluctant to throw it away after I put the data on my computer. I’m even more reticent about reclaiming the shelf space in our living room. Why? I paid just as much for the music I downloaded from Amazon and iTunes.
I asked folks on Twitter what they do with physical CDs, and got quite a few responses:
- phronk: I have a CD rack I put them on. It’s basically for decoration now. (That sounds familiar)
- samplereality: Trade the CDs on Lala.com (hmmm… I don’t think I can do that in good conscience while keeping the audio files)
- jnjdad: my car will not work with my ipod, so they are for listening in the car at this point. After, I am going to make curtains (not exactly my style)
- ellembee: My dad files the liner notes in large CD cases and throws out the jewel cases. I can’t do it. I’m a sentimental packrat. (Sounds like too much work for me)
- SKasowitz: Data side up in the microwave. For a few seconds you get a beautiful show. Used to do that with the hundreds of AOL CDs we’d get (I’d be a little worried about my microwave!)
- kejames: Old CDs make great scarecrows or wall art – constellations are especially nice on walls or ceilings (Not sure about the juxtaposition of “scarecrow” and “wall art” there. Aren’t they mutually exclusive?)
- philipj: They’re the backup. (I thought that way for a while. Then I realized my computer already backs them up onto a second hard drive, plus they’re on several different iPods, which can be hacked into coughing them back up in a disaster scenario. How many backups does one need?)
Now there’s no room on the shelf in our living room, and I’m tempted to just toss my latest CD (an amazing collection of Afro-Peruvian jazz by Gabriel Alegria) in the trash. Why not? I wouldn’t even have the CD if I’d bought it on iTunes. Yet I can’t make myself get rid of it. There’s too much of a connection to the physical thing, worthless though it is, and almost certain never to be used for its intended purpose again.