Friday, 9 November 2012

Thoughts on physical media for music

A recent post on the Guardian website gave me food for thought; not least of which because at the moment this is a question I have been thinking about for a while. Whilst there are more and more people who consume music via live streaming, YouTube and .mp3s, I know that there are plenty of people that prefer a physical connection to their music. So I thought I'd weigh in on the discussion and make for a rambling post.

I seem to be stuck in the middle at the moment between physical and immaterial purchases. As you would expect, I do have a large CD collection but fortunately for me they are in boxes and on shelves at my parents' house at the moment. Thank god I never got into vinyl in a big way and I have nothing on cassette tape that I haven't already bought on a CD. We don't talk about Minidisc - luckily I didn't managed to ignore that format in favour of MP3s. 

Which brings me nicely on to my love of MP3s and music downloads. In the bad old days of WinMX I loved the format for downloading radio shows and DJ mixes, whereas now I use iTunes for pretty much all my purchases. Convenience is one thing, but cost and availability is another. As an electronic music fan, I'm restricted to only a handful of places I can buy CDs on the high street and the only music chain left (HMV) are hit and miss when it comes to stocking anything that isn't mainstream pop. HMV have also said that music is no longer their main business concern and it seems these days that they are dragging their business kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and trying to play catch up with other online business. But I digress; it's difficult to get hold of electronic music and it's expensive  to buy from niche shops like Phonica or Sister Ray. With iTunes, I've got everything at a cheap price and instantly available for my iPod - while I don't think much of Apple's products, they have the iPod/iTunes/Store integration down really well. But there's not much I've got to show for it and whilst I pay regularly for exactly the music I want, I can't help feeling that a subscription service like Spotify might suit me better if I regularly buy music.

The crux of the matter is what to do with all these CDs that I have ripped and not so much have forgotten but don't regularly use. To put it bluntly, I still want to keep all my CDs and boxes intact, as I have spent a long time collecting and organising them, but as it is so convenient to have so much music on a computer, the physical space they are taking up could be used elsewhere. I have so little space at my current flat to store them and I don't really want to shell out money for external storage, although I certainly wouldn't mind paying for more external hard disk storage to back all my music up to.

Recently I have taken to transporting all my DVDs in slipcases and getting rid of the boxes, so I can carry loads more in less space. Box sets aside, this is a really nice way of saving space, but I am finding it hard to transfer this idea to music as I value CDs in a totally different way. I guess it would be nice to get more space or sell them but it would take a lot of persuading to convince me to do so - perhaps the allure of getting money for selling them would be a nice incentive. But with the price of second hand CDs falling ever lower, it's almost not worth actually selling them at all, even if I did want to.

As a side note - having no CDs still wouldn't stop me from buying more CDs (new or second hand) as well ;)

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