It’s Not The Size Of Your Collection That Matters…

Or Does It? The Biggest Crisis In Music Fandom.

image from Remember the days when you could judge a music fan by the size of their collection? When I started out, it was the matter of filling that 20 disc case. That’s like between $250-300 worth of music; a rather sizeable sum for a teenager to come up with. But, it didn’t take long before I started eyeing the 100 and then 250 disc cases.

By the time my final years of high-school arrived, I had filled those too. Upwards of 85-90% of those discs were ones that I bought myself.  I do, however, recall those glorious days when a friend or two forgot their collections at my house. Shortly thereafter, I took to copying every CD that I liked.  Mostly, because there was nothing better to do anyways. After all, I did live on a farm. That process of burning CDs took an innumerable amount of time, effort, and commitment; it was a barrier to music consumption and the act of collecting in general.

For me, collecting music became this constant, voracious pursuit of growing my collection—through any means necessary. I never had enough music. New and used CDs, free MP3s, entire hard drive dumps, a shared file or two, and whatever else it took. As well, I did end up getting an iPod later on and the expansiveness of my iTunes library mushroomed. 10? 20? 30,000 songs? Who knows, I don’t quite recollect the original amount; it goes without saying that it was big.

"I have to admit, a certain amount of pride blossomed when someone... had to page through all the... CDs and scroll through my iPod before they'd choose a song."

I have to admit, a certain amount of pride blossomed when someone got into my car and they had to page through all the wonderful CDs and scroll through my iPod before they could choose a song. “You have almost everything, this is amazing,” they would remark. Given the right match of taste, those words could make any collector swell with a bit of delight. Having a large collection separated the men from the boys, so to speak.

Since the iPod is such a social object and a mark of a true personal DJ was to not only have the music that you liked but have plenty of songs that everyone else liked too. My collection took on new characteristics and artists that I would’ve never considered adding before. The premise remained clear though, that to have a large, well-curated collection, meant obtaining a bit of prominence. Even if anyone could technically build a collection as large as yours, they likely didn’t have the gems, nor did they put as much time into it as you.

Things change. “Large collections of music used to align with status among fellow listeners: the collapse of this equation is the biggest crisis in music fandom for years,” Tom Ewing writes. “The artificial scarcity of retro music formats; the rush to discover new bands; reverent pieces about the magic drudgery) of old-school listening-- all these things are rooted in the dread awareness that having lots of records just isn't enough anymore.”

"Now, my CD collection is a museum of cup coasters."

Now, my CD collection is a museum of cup coasters. Once and awhile, I’ll pull out a CD from back in the day, but the limitations of the format anger me too much. The iPod?  Well, let’s just say that the love of my life got eaten by a washing machine a few years back and I still don’t talk about the horror of seeing my soul, my entire collection of music being reduced to a flashing, blinking, and dying paperweight. I have an LG Chocolate and I have some songs on there, but not enough to matter; it comes in handy in emergencies. And that hard drive crashed a few years ago—I lost everything—and never felt the need to replace it.

Where’s all my music? In the cloud, spread across accounts and what not. I looked though a collection of a new friend of mine and I will admit—I was jealous. She had a large collection; it covered tons and tons of artists that I loved and still love. Plenty of other artists that I had never heard of too.  I used to have one bigger than hers and likely she would’ve found it to be impressive. But Ewing is right. Having more music than someone else doesn’t mean as much as it used to. If ever it meant anything at all. To this day, I miss having that much music.

Yet I would argue that the very reason I don’t have a big collection anymore is because on an unconscious level—I know—what’s the point? That and I probably know about more recommendation systems, social discovery tools, cloud-based streaming services, and whatever else, than anybody else; it’s my job. So not only is the idea of having a large collection lost to me, but these days there’s just more efficient and smarter ways to consume music. - Kyle Bylin

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