I recently came to work with two large tote bags filled with compact discs and dumped them out on a table in the middle of the office. To me, they were garbage. But for the vultures that are my fellow NPR Music producers, it was like finding a mountain of free money. They shuffled through the pile, grabbing everything that caught their eye. At one point, Stephen Thompson held up my discarded copy of Radiohead's OK Computer and incredulously asked, "Why would you get rid of this?"
For about a year now, I've been slowly purging my once-proud CD collection. Twenty-five years' worth of music, from the first disc I ever bought (Pink Floyd's The Wall) in 1984, to more recent releases.
Of course, I'm not really getting rid of them. I'm ripping everything to a massive hard drive hooked up to what has become my stereo: my computer.
This is partly because I don't like having a house overrun with thousands of CDs. Invisible sound files on a hard drive are simply more convenient. You can also do a lot more with digital files and iTunes, like delivering an endless stream of music through the house in any conceivable configuration, by artist, genre, or favorite playlists. Changing out a CD in a player feels as clunky and outdated as flipping a record on a turntable.
But I'm also purging my CDs because I believe they're a dying format. There's never been a more obvious trend. CD sales continue to plummet at a breathless — and, if you're one of the big labels, alarming — rate. Meanwhile, digital download sales continue to climb.
None of this is as sexy as having a tangible package of music, with artwork and liner notes. And downloading files isn't nearly as cozy as flipping through the local bands section of a record store. But the truth is, I never listen to actual CDs more than once or twice. After that, they're ripped to my computer — I put the discs away and never look at them again.
Lately, I've felt a sense of urgency to get rid of the rest of my old CDs before they become as obsolete as 8-track tapes and cassettes.
So, what does your CD collection look like? Is it getting smaller? Do you even buy actual CDs now, or do you just download everything?