I've just trashed nearly all of my digital music representing more than 20 years of music, from since I was a teenager. I threw away around 10,000 tunes, and I now only have 568 left. I had vinyl rips, CD rips, SoundCloud tunes, tunes from my 10 years DJing in the same club every Saturday, all my pre-dance music, novelty tunes, holiday records, pop music from long-forgotten wedding gigs...
It's taken me days to do, and as I sold all of my vinyl and CDs few years ago, these 500-odd digital files really are all I have left. I have to tell you it feels pretty liberating. I think my DJing is going to improve a lot because of it.
Seven reasons why I did it
- I wanted my music to mean something to me again - Digital has given us an age of abundance, and if you have loads and loads of tunes, I've come to realise that you simply can't value them as you used to value a limited number of records or CDs. Creating music is hard and the artists deserve respect, they deserve to have their work valued and played. As I have under 600 tunes now, pretty much every single one of them I can give time to. I value them again
- I never played 90% of what was in my collection - I mean, never. On the very odd occasions when I hit "shuffle" in iTunes (I use iTunes to sort out my local music for DJing), I frequently ended up thinking "what's this rubbish?" and deleting stuff I forgot I'd even bought. One play every five or six years is not enough reason to be looking through the stuff countless times in the meantime. I just wanted it out of the way. I was actually scared to hit "shuffle" because my collection was so not about where I am now!
- I now use Spotify for day-to-day music - Spotify is great (it's coming to the US imminently, by the way). It lets you stream a large percentage of released music without ever owning it, for a small monthly fee. You get a desktop app that remains synced with your iPhone Spotify app, and it feels like using iTunes - you can have playlists and folders, you can sort and shuffle. You can even listen offline by specifying you want folders or tracks to be available for offline listening. You need to experience this if you haven't yet. I'm convinced it, and similar services, are the future of day-to-day listening. Now, the relatively few artists and albums I like to hear over and over are safely on my Spotify, my DJ tracks are on my laptop, and the rest is where it belongs - in the bin
- I wanted a distinction between tracks and albums - DJs don't care about albums. They don't even care about 12s or EPs. They care about tracks. Individual tracks. Anything else if fluff. I was never comfortable having albums in iTunes, because I wanted my "local" music to be just the absolutely essential tracks that I need for my DJing. But I do like albums - hence it's good to "have" full albums on Spotify
- I wanted to be able to look through my whole collection before a gig - I don't know how long it is going to take me to browse through 500+ records, but I suspect I'll be able to look through them all if I want before a gig, and play snippets of lots of them to decide whether to "pack" them. I will actually be choosing my night's music from more, not less, because I rarely used to have had the time to scan my collection properly before a gig, so more often than not I just took last week's playlist, removed a few, and added some new stuff. I've already rediscovered loads of tunes I can't wait to play
- I can properly care for what's left - Frankly, possessions make me nervous! They need looking after, thinking about, caring for. I like living with less - it makes life simpler. I don't see why it shouldn't apply to music too. DJ tunes need to be top notch quality, they need to be beatgridded, cue pointed, key analysed, remastered if necessary. They need album art and genre tagging. What I've got left can now be properly looked after. Plus, if you clear the decks (literally), you then have more room for new stuff
- Because I wanted to get closer to my "sound" - I've always known "my" music. I've always played a wide choice - rock, 60s, reggae, house, pop, indie, chill out, ambient, old school - but there's something that links all these records. By cutting the clutter, I can connect better with what that defining "something" is. I can make more meaningful and more exciting links between my tunes. It will ultimately make DJing more fun, and I hope it will mean people are more likely to know it's me playing, wherever I play and whatever style is required
Just so you know...
It's only fair to let you know that I haven't quite thrown it all. I have a small number of specialised club tunes from 1994 to 2005 that are on a hard drive in my wardrobe at home.
I have only kept it because I may be asked to play a reunion or something along those lines for the club night I used to run. It'll save me buying some of those tunes again. But I never listen to them now, hence they're kept, but they're still essentially forgotten.
Also let me tell you one downfall: Not everything is on Spotify, so if I want to listen to music that isn't, I need to have a copy of it somewhere. Not worked out the best way to do that yet. I may join another streaming service to cover more bases. I still listen to online radio, Hype Machine etc so it's not as if I'm relying on Spotify for everything. I'm prepared to accept this.
Time will tell...
I know this system isn't going to suit everyone. I'm not even at this stage saying it's going to suit me! But I want to try it, and it's been a long time coming. What I've got left still represents a record for every two weeks I've been DJing...What I've got left still represents a record for every two weeks I've been DJing, or 30 records a year for the past 20 years. Looking at it that way, that's still quite a lot of music.
I still think I can play a great variety of gigs with the music I've decided to keep, and I'm really excited to see how it helps (or hinders) me over the next few months. I'll report back in good time...
Do you struggle with a bloated music collection? How much music do you have? How do you keep it organised? Would you be tempted to do something like I've just done? I'd love you to share in the comments.