A couple years ago, I promised myself that when my MP3 collection hit 10,000 I’d pause for reflection. But that pause never happened.
Now I’ve hit 20,000 tracks in my iTunes library, and I’m drawing a line in the sand. At least temporarily. No more! At least not today.
For me it’s become like a sickness, a disease, an addiction.
Firstwith, let me characterize my collection, which gives some indication of the scope of my problem. I have 20,919 songs in my collection by 7,468 artists in 77 different genres. That’s approximately 61 days of continuous audio. 109 GB of data.
Of these, 4,645 tracks have never even been played. “Put Yo Hood Up” by Lil Jon holds the record; I acquired it in November 2005 and still haven’t played it. At least I know what it sounds like. There’s plenty of stuff here that’s a complete mystery. I don’t know what it is or how I acquired it in the first place.
The first thing most people want to know is, “Where do you get it all?”
- Our CD collection. Over the years I’ve ripped ’em all, and we recently boxed them up for storage in the basement.
- Other people’s CD collections. When I’m over at a friend’s house, I might ask to borrow five of their favorite CDs. I take ’em home, rip ’em, return ’em. I believe this is legal.
- The library. Kinda like the previous, but the library has a way bigger collection. I check out a stack, rip ’em and return ’em. Is this legal? I think it still falls under “fair use.”
- Music blogs. Not sure what the legality of these are, but they’re one of the best ways to get turned on to new music.
- Other internet sources. There are lots of archives of free music all over the web. This tends to be weird, fringe or obscure stuff.
- P2P file-sharing networks. Dubious legality, but these account for a small fraction of the overall collection. However, I recently got a decent BitTorrent client and you can use that thing to download whole discographies. That’s frightening to an addict like me.
- Purchase. I never used the iTunes Music Store because I didn’t like the DRM restrictions. When Radiohead released their own album online last year, it was the first time I ever paid for a music download. Then I got an Amazon gift certificate from my in-laws and I spent it all on MP3 downloads. Convenient and good quality.
I naïvely thought I’d reach some natural limit of my own interests. I thought I’d discover some artists that I like and then hit some kind of horizon beyond which I wouldn’t care to venture. I didn’t account for the appeal of sheer novelty, or the breadth of my musical taste. I’m still discovering artists and subgenres that I find really compelling. For example, most recently I discovered the incredible band Dead Can Dance.
In the interests of full disclosure, kind of like candidates releasing financial statements, here are charts of my listening activity according to Last.FM and iTunes. (Warning, it’s a very large page. Or you could just check my Last.FM profile.) It should be noted that the extreme prominence in these charts of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, U2 and some others is due to Xy’s influence. Keeping these artists high in the mix does wonders for our domestic tranquility. However, I will take full responsibility for the Blue Öyster Cult.
So anyway. So what? So I enjoy hanging out and listening to music. I also enjoy researching and learning more about new music, expanding my horizons. So what’s the problem?
Well, the sheer maintenance and curatorial work involved with this collection is a bit daunting. I like to have things somewhat orderly, even if I’m the only one who ever sees it. Properly tagged audio makes all sorts of interesting things possible when it comes to programming playlists. But each file has roughly a dozen fields of meta data that need to be filled out, and these rarely are filled out completely when I acquire the file, no matter the source, or worse, they’re filled out improperly. Currently I have 285 tracks for which no artist is listed.
So I do research. Sometimes this leads to interesting philosophical conundrums, such as the concept of genre. But it is time consuming.
And then there’s ratings. iTunes lets you rate each song from one to five stars. But just try rating 20,000 songs and you start to feel like a gerbil on a wheel.
Sometimes I get to feeling like the collection is managing me, rather than the other way around.
So. Resolved. I’m slowing down.
Just as soon as I check out the new Renard Poché album…