Monday, August 19, 2013

Does the Physical Version Matter?

My girlfriend and I are currently in the process of moving home. In fact, we've almost finished moving home; at the very least, we've arrived at the point where spending the night in our new house is more comfortable than staying in the room we've just vacated, but while a good ninety percent of our earthly possessions have now made the great leap over from our previous residence (i.e. my parents' house), one big task remains and that's The Album Wall itself.

You see, this blog is named for my problematically large CD collection, which is still mounted on the wall in my old bedroom. Here's a photo:

And it just keeps getting bigger. We can hope that with bills to pay and appliances to buy, I might not have much CD money going spare in the months to come, but even if I stopped buying albums forever as of tomorrow, I'd still have to house all CDs in that picture.

It's inconvenient, and where people with too many clothes can simply take the ones they don't wear anymore to a charity shop, I'm reluctant to part with any of these albums, even the ones I haven't played for years. I know that as soon as I've let them go, I'll start missing them.

An obvious solution - and one that's been suggested to me many times - is to rip all the CDs to my computer and then clear them out. But I've never really taken to that idea; I feel that if I don't have the disc and the packaging, I don't really have the music. Even the few albums I did take to a car boot sale have been erased from my hard drive - I just don't feel entitled to listen to those songs any more. Besides, if I still wanted to listen to them, I wouldn't have sold them in the first place, right?

I've read lots of different arguments for buying (and keeping) the CD or record instead of just downloading the files. The most common one is that people like to have the physical artefact; to admire the album art; to read the inlay; to have the complete package, as it were. I agree with that to some extent, but while I do like to read the liner notes and get a bit of insight, I don't think that's my big obsession.

As sad as it sounds, I think I just like buying things. Another common argument for buying rather than downloading is supporting the artist, keeping record stores alive, and so on, and while I certainly do want to do that stuff, I think I would still buy the albums even if it didn't benefit the band/shop. I'm a collector, pure and simple - my dad collects Penguin Classics with black spines, and I collect CDs with rad music on them. The music would sound just as good if I'd just downloaded it, but having the thing to go with it gives me an extra kick of collector-endorphins on top.

As for my ever-expanding collection, I suspect I'll find somewhere to put all of those CDs. Whether or not my girlfriend will be happy with the situation is another matter.

Are you obsessed with the artefact? Or do you just download the songs and enjoy them on their own? Comments are welcome. In the meantime, here's a song about having a new house:

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