Why I Just Threw Away Nearly All Of My Music

trash2

I can’t say it wasn’t painful, but I’ve done it – my music collection is now less than 600 tunes.

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

  1. 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
  2. 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!
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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.

Wardrobe music

Up there, somewhere behind my controller’s box and the bags of memorabilia, is a hard drive with a load of progressive house on it…

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.

Comments

  1. Bartboot says:

    Awesome article. I have been trying to bring myself to do the same thing. Currently my system is 3-5 Stars depending on If I think it’s a great starter to a floor killer. I also rate songs with a 2 if I’m on the fence about it and want to try it out in a set to try and find it a home. Problem is I have way too many 2 rated songs to ever find them all a home. I recently trimmed down my collection from about 2600 songs to 1400 songs but I think I can do better.

    Thanks for taking the first steps for me and giving me the motivation to go on with my plan.

  2. Victor_M says:

    I commend you!!!!

    I’ve been thinking of doing this for years but like most Digital DJ’s I’m an electronic hoarder and can’t bring myself in doing the deed.

  3. There are music for listening and music for dj’ing. I have more than 1000 CDs and about 300 vinyl, obviously maybe the 10 % could be for gigs and I have not ripped more than the half but I do listen music a lot, not for dj. What I do I have like 800 tracks in traktor and about the same in crates on serato and still like 14000 tracks on iTunes and a I know each of it. When I am playing do not browse iTunes only the crates and the traktor playlist.

  4. Andreas Sakka says:

    Wow – a brave and interesting move, Phil!

    While I commend the move to minimalism and the resultant focus that this inevitably brings, had it been me I think I would have first backed up everything to an external hard drive (they neither cost much nor take up much space, especially the portable ones) and THEN gone on a deletion spree on my main computer. Just in case you regret a decision or have a very unexpected requirement.

    I seem to spend more time managing an unwieldy number of files than I do playing, which is completely wrong and something you will avoid.

    I knew a guy who only ever owned a couple of bags of vinyl (back in the day!). Because of money and space, he couldn’t have any more than that. The records would change over time, buying and selling to keep the music fresh. Result: not much space or money used, he knew his tunes inside out, no filler tracks, and the music was always fresh. You’re kinda doing the digital version of that. Well done for being braver than me!

    • Thanks – I’ve kind of done that keeping tunes from a particular club night somewhere in case I ever need them – but I can pretty much buy anything again, and 20 tunes for a gig is hardly going to break the bank when I’m being paid multiple times that – and that’s if I ever needed to (which I don’t think I will).

      Oh, and I’ve kept stuff I know is irreplaceable (bootlegs, acetates etc). Even then it’s only a handful.

  5. I don’t fully agree with the logic, but I understand.

    With me, I still store any music I liked and would play on data DVDs. I’ve mentioned before though that I don’t really “hoard” music and I pick stuff I know I’ll play over and over again.

    In terms of vinyl, I usually get rid of promos and record pool garbage that I might have just tossed into a crate and forgot about, but stuff like my classic 80s house, rave music, and older stuff I won’t part with. For me those are timeless and irreplaceable. Sites like Beatport only have a fraction of those tunes, so I’d rather have a hard copy somewhere.

    In terms of data, I do have a 500GB hard drive for regular use, but I don’t really put a lot into it. Even now I just hit the “delete” button on my stuff in iTunes, and plan on going to those DVDs to grab the latest stuff I have, while the older stuff stays in storage.

    A few books of discs take up little space, so I don’t mind storing it all. I just think in my book any piece of music I keep is timeless to me. The trick is not keeping it all at once.

    I also do the practice of only keeping the remix I like…so I end up with 5-6 remixes of a tune that I might think all sound good, I only keep the one I know I’ll generally reach for to play.

  6. dennis parrott says:

    I would guess that a DJ’s ability to just drop 1000′s of songs in the digital trash is directly related to the primary type of DJing they do. Myself, I can’t do this…

    My typical gig is a love-fest of requests. Playing requests is a bit of a challenge; how do I get that song worked in without disrupting the dance floor? But people like it. And I enjoy having people come up and say things like “oh wow, i haven’t heard that one in forever! nice!” I made two people happy playing the song — them and me!

    I can see myself trimming the “active” lists a bit such that my typical genre crate is full of ONLY the best quality tunes. But I just can’t see myself throwing everything else in the trash. I’ve dipped into the “less active” lists too many times for requests and less well-known songs.

    More power to ya, Phil but I can’t walk that same road with you. I can delete lots of things from my hard drive but not my music.

    As a follow-up, bring up the subject 6 months and again at a year down the road and tell us whether you remain happy with your decision, what happened, et. al. I would really like to hear how it goes.

    • Of course. That’s why my system isn’t for everyone. I am at the age and place in my DJ career now where I play what I want and trust my ability to keep the kinds of crowds I choose to play to happy. “While I may not be able to play YOUR particular request, I can pretty much guarantee I WILL play something you like” – that’s my kind of DJing :)

      • dennis parrott says:

        Oh, I knew all that Phil… I just have a predisposition for offering my two cents, asked for or not!! LOL

        I do agree with some of the others. This was a very brave sort of move, no doubt. You really need to come back and tell us all how it goes.

  7. I am a music nerd, musician, producer, composer, DJ, and I have under 2000 songs in my iTunes. I don’t have albums. I have songs that I love, and that I can sit there and listen to intently every time they come on.

  8. DeeJayIvan says:

    I. AM. A. HOARDER! lol …. both digital and vinyl. Just before the baby was born last year we did some renovations to our home and all my vinyl was boxed up. On top of that I offered to store a good friend’s vinyl collection as well as his records were stored in his parents’ basement but they have moved to a condo in the same building as my friend and neither have much storage space. Now we are getting ready to move to a new home as well and there will be LOTS to records to move!

    …the first step is admitting you have a problem :P

  9. Jon Cravenwood says:

    I’ve started doing this, only rather than deleting the tunes i never play i keep them on an external hard drive…..you never know you may need them one day!

  10. Andrew R says:

    This isn’t for me but I do a similar version. I have 2 Laptops. My Dj-only laptop and my everyday everything laptop. My Everything laptop gets all the music and only the cream of the crop dance tunes make their way to the dj laptop and then every month or more i go through my dj laptop and clear the ones that don’t have any real legs anymore… I have thrown out music in the past to only buy it again… Who knew when I matured I would actually like James Taylor?

    • dennis parrott says:

      Now this is a road I can walk down… more or less.

      In the vast pile of tunes I have (and yes, Virginia, I do own “albums”) I’d bet I could make a list of the best songs in each genre. Putting those onto my “performing laptop” makes perfect sense.

      I probably wouldn’t play James Taylor at a gig but I would sure keep him in my “personal collection”.

    • This is basically what I do too, except, having more than one job, I have multiple subsections of my music collection on various machines. I do have one central repository system in my house, upon which everything is stored. Over the years I’ve created a few hundred playlists to keep things more-or-less sorted, and I sync whichever playlists I want for a particular system (like my work laptop, which needs a little more variety to keep up with my mental mood swings during the day) using a mostly-OK piece of software called Mediarover (which syncs playlists and files in iTunes).

      But all of this is totally different when it comes to my “performance” laptop. The only music on it lives in Traktor, which means it gets its own, special copies of everything handed to it manually, so it only has about 600 songs on it. Does this mean my server system at home has a couple thousand songs on it that I haven’t heard in years? Certainly (although I can’t be sure my wife hasn’t been blasting the sythpop when I’m not home). But I do enjoy the idea of being able to just switch on a stereo in my living room, whip out my iPhone, and play just about anything at just about any time.

      Its also totally possible that my situation is a product of being married to someone who didn’t like (or know) they type of music I play professionally until a few months after we met (I was mostly retired from DJing at that point, so I didn’t play all that much psytrance in the car, which probably worked to my advantage in retrospect), so who knows what I would have done had I been in my own little musical microcosm.

      I guess the point that I’m failing to make is that I think both the idea of, as a DJ, limiting one’s musical landscape whilst in “DJ Mode” is not only commendable, but also an ultimate necessity. On the flip side, I also believe in digital hording, especially these days, as a 2TB hard drive is now sub-80USD range. I can fit every CD I’ve ever owned in WAV form on 2 of those, and they fit inside my computer, which I have to move anyway. So it depends on your situation.

  11. Um To be honest I would have just bought a large external drive dumped all the music on it and only keep the 500 or so records on the laptop.
    You never know when you need a particular tune, just like you never know before a gig exactly what you will be playing.
    Brave move though!

  12. DJ Geard says:

    WOW Phil,
    I think it was a good move. I am in the process of doing the same thing (not nearly as extreme as you). I digtized all my vinyl that was worth keeping (bootlegs and white labels) that I will not find for sale. I then threw out that vinyl. I have come to the conclusion I am a music enthusiast and DJ not a vinyl collector.
    In reading the articles the past few weeks I also realize it is time to trim down the DJ music files and clearly separate them and get to “know my music” too and again. It is liberating. Suspect it will be more freeing as I go along. When I had to carry vinyl around I knew my music. I didn’t look what to play out of 5000 files, I just knew what to play and bring to that club on that night more or less.
    I would love to discuss this with you more as I have decided to manage my DJ files (as opposed to my music collection)in iTunes because all the DJ software (Traktor, Serato, Torq, etc) allow you to integrate it, I mean the playlists too. I am using dropbox till iCloud is released and just picked up an iPod Touch (should just get an iPhone) so I can manage, trim, DELETE my unused tracks and get more intimate with tracks I know I should be playing or want to customize for DJing purposes. All this without being tied down to m computer desk to manage files which these days DJs spend more time doing rather than playing. There is way too much of an abundance of music available. And yes Digital DJ Tips has helped me come to this personal decision. I would love to know more how you use these tools too help file and manage Phil or anyone else. Specifically with iTunes and cloud services rather than syncing external drives and plug devices every time I make a change to a folder or dragging my laptop everywhere.
    Thanks for your honesty Phil there are plenty who would say you are crazy (lol).
    Hey D-JAM being that you are from Chicago please do not ever get rid of those House Classics (80′s & early 90′s) only pressed on white label vinyl.

    • Managing your DJ files in iTunes is a good idea for the reason you identify (although Traktor doesn’t play as nicely with it as it might).

      I have not used Dropbox / iCloud / Amazon Music locker yet in this way, although I think this kind of solution is the next step (it’s easier for me to experiment with 600 tunes rather than tens of thousands) – so keep reading and we’ll take that road together!

      My big tip for iTunes is learn about smart playlists, and use a spare field for tags (ie “Grouping”). Then you can sort by tag, so you can tag tunes for club nights across your genres.

  13. Phil – you must have had terrible taste in music to throw so much away!

    Only joking….!

    I’ve got lots of old vinyl, tapes and CDs that I never play. I should have a clear out too. Thankfully my Traktor setup is fairly lean and I hope to keep it fairly trim.

    Rob.

  14. Good for you Phil, I’m starting out and I have had this similar problem in my personal life of hoarding stuff, till it took someone really close to convince to let things go. I have always wondered why having a massive music collection only makes you more distant to your music. I’m considering getting a mac book pro with a 64gb SSD for this reason. The limit will keep my collection slim, lean and less bloated.

  15. hey Phil,

    I understand why you are doing this, but there’s no reason to get rid them all! as a dj, your job is to listen to music, whether it’s “your” music or not. why don’t you start a new folder/hd where you keep only your gig tracks? this allows for all the above while still keeping your options open.

    don’t let business take over pleasure!

    • I don’t draw a line between business and music – I passionately only play music I love. And I probably listen to more music than ever right now :)

  16. You use itch so I would Of just made a coulple gig crates and throw the rest in an archive crate. 600 tracks is like only enough for ( events. I do see where you are coming from tho. I don’t use 90 percent of my 40000 track library either.

  17. I will NEVER get rid of any of my tunes… especially the vinyl. It would be like cutting off my arms. Guess it depends just how valuable your old tunes are.

  18. DJ Fernandough says:

    i respect what you’ve done Phil, that must have took a lot of spine… I HOARD!! well truth is I love all genres of music so i have huuuuge collection of over 50,000 songs that includes old school hip hop and newer stuff too, house, reggae, latin tropical, classic funk, soul, pop and all else in between and there’s stuff in there including vinyl and cd rips i don’t own in phisical form any longer from the early 70s to 2008, but all of it is kept in an external hard drive i keep close by plus a backup copy in a second hard drive tucked away in a safe place. all i keep at quick reach is about 300 total in the laptop and a good 1000 tunes in a 16gb flash drive, i analize and process as i buy since i don’t buy more than 10 tunes every 2 weeks these days, but the hard drive stays in my dj bag just in case an older song comes to mind as suitable for the moment or i get a request (i do a lot of house parties) and that works fine for me… i am not sure if i have the heart to get rid of a collection that took me from the early 90s until now to build, not even trying to find out neither lol

  19. Thanks Phil!
    Something I’ve been itching to do for a looooong time. You got me motivated now. :)

  20. 56.000 tracks on my PC, like a pro-lammer.

    I have to do what you’ve done.

  21. I can’t bring myself to get rid of vinyl, the hip hop head in me thinks sacrilege every time the thought crosses my mind. I regularly purge my CD collection (twice a year is usual) to keep it under 800 discs (that is all that will fit in my CD rack and I refuse to buy any more storage space for music). If I didn’t also produce music, and do rough mastering/mixing for friends, I would probably pare down my digital music collection, but as it is, I regularly listen to genre tracks, songs from a specific era, or just troll thru for sample material, and so it does serve a purpose (other than clogging my hard drive that is). I have been keeping a “never played” smart playlist in iTunes, which was very useful to see what stuff I had ended up with digitally that really didn’t make the cut (anything the ex-girlfriend put on iTunes is more than likely going to be binned).

    I have been considering keeping a 2nd iTunes library that is just for previewing, picking, sorting and organizing music to DJ with, as I truly dislike have a cluttered iTunes library, so when I add new music, its often a mass of add, listen, tag, listen, delete, which is a bit harder to sort thru when you have thousands of songs.

    I also have a lot of older DJ mixes ripped from CD, which I keep as reference for DJ’ing techniques, song combination and transition ideas, and so forth, which has the unfortunate side effect of leaving me with a lot of duplicate tracks in the drum n bass/jungle and hip hop genres, so I have been adding the ID3 tag Mixed in the Grouping slot. That way I can exclude those tracks from any playlist I generate to audition for putting together a DJ set.

  22. Digital music is worthless so throwing it away doesn’t amount to much. But the decision to impose limits is interesting and increasingly necessary in this day and age. Good to hear you’re listening to and enjoying music more than ever now. We did a limitation too, choosing to abandon all digital music and listen only to vinyl. It’s been lovely! Wrote about here:

    http://asthoughtheshamewouldoutlivehim.blogspot.com/2011/06/restriction.html

    • Thanks for your comment!

      “Digital music is worthless so throwing it away doesn’t amount to much.” – sorry but I don’t think you really mean that, do you? I guess in monetary value there’s no resale attached if that’s what you mean.

      But digital, vinyl, CD, they’re all just media for carrying the music. The worth is surely in the music not the media.

      I understand your vinyl experiment – shame most of the music I DJ with never comes out on vinyl, making the idea a non-starter for me.

  23. How timely! I just did this and finished about three days ago. I took my 7000 tracks down to about a thousand. Not as drastic as you but I agree with the philosophy 100%. Feels good to scan thru a folder quickly and find plenty of good stuff rather than trying to spot a suitable track amidst the rest of the mediocre stuff. Like you I haven’t gig’d yet with this new library but just listening and practicing at home is already more enjoyable. Excellent article. Just want to say that ddjt has been on the daily checklist with djtt and skratchworx

  24. For a couple months now (oops – hit return by accident on the iPad)

  25. Funny you should post this today as just last night I decided to clean up my iTunes library. My Itch library has about 1,000 files and my iTunes has about 4,800 files. I’m going to try and get my iTunes down to 1,500-2,000 and my Itch library to around 800. Definitely not as drastic, but I can’t wait for it to be over and like every song I see in my libraries.

  26. As a torrent user, I’ve ended up doing the same thing. I used to collect obscure albums and bands (say, everything by the Birthday Party), but often I had those albums because I wanted to listen to them once a year, which didn’t justify the space.

    Now the sharing sites have become really excellent, I keep the music collection on my laptop much smaller: as I can download any album ever released in about 30 seconds and delete it a few days later.

    One of the biggest advantages is that the filesharing community is very loving: so you can get vinyl rips, several different file formats, very obscure EPs and lots of stuff that it isn’t possible to buy.

    I’m hoping this will be improved in the near future so I can just stream music at high bitrates, so I don’t need to keep any locally at all.

    (Please don’t bother grumping at me about filesharing, just explaining how my side of the fence operates :) )

  27. Cool article man.

    You make some really good points….being in a digital age we do take for granted the amount of music we obtain. Hell about 5-6 years ago i was download about 100 songs a week ( no joke…a website called realestniggas.com was the shit!!!).

    I may do a little clear out too….but not some of the CD’s, they are just…you know…CD’s :)

  28. Finlay Stewart says:

    I did a pretty similar thing about a year ago, when I sold pretty much all the vinyl I had (roughly 1500 tunes). I have kept about 100 for various reasons, including some signed pieces and those with a particularly warm (and usually sentimental) memory attached to them. I sold my turntables too, I just didn’t see the point of having them without the medium to play on them. I made sure I was pretty comfortable with my digital setup first!

    The reasons I sold them? I didn’t listen to them and crucially I didn’t have the space.
    Going from 1500+ records, two turntables, two CDJs, a mixer, an amp and speakers to a laptop,a controller and powered speakers is very liberating.

    Oddly space was the biggest kicker, I just don’t have room for stuff I don’t use any more. Besides I would rather someone else got use out of them, to live they need to be played.

    (Don’t take it personally Phil but a sizeable amount of those tunes were bought straight after you played them at Tangled!)

    If you are thinking of doing this I would give one very important piece of advice, get a full tracklist. Get the artist, the song name, the remix, the label, the year, EVERYTHING. If you ever want that tune back, you have a starting point. Even though I sold my vinyl I don’t think I have lost the ability to listen (and with some digging re-purchase) those tunes, with a full tracklist you are only a step away from an online music store.

    Digital music is a completely different matter, just buy more storage capacity. Terabytes of capacity are trivially inexpensive, and we are all backing everything up anyway (you are backing up, aren’t you?). Stick it a different folder and don’t worry about it.

  29. how about posting up a 4 hour live mix, id like to hear what you do with your new streamlined library.

    • I played a 5-hour set last night actually! Didn’t record it though, I don’t record-and-post as a rule, I like the play to who’s in front of me.

      • Eky metal says:

        Most of you guys are club djs.
        I am not saying all !
        But as I am a mobile DJ , you get asked for the most obscure stuff .
        I have a main hard drive that I store stuff on , and then transfer it to a smaller one for the gig whatever the client has requested .
        I think you may regret this , as heaps of my stuff is taken from vinyl and long deleted stuff . I hope you backed up.
        I don’t find streaming that reliable , as every gig is somewhere different .
        Some country places here have no Internet signal .
        Good luck phill
        Please excuse if any mistakes as I am sending this on my phone .
        Meant to be working !!!

        Cheers mate
        Cheers mate

        Good luck with it

  30. @Phil – yes, I meant the medium itself is worthless, not – of course – the material therein, but this is an important distinction. With file sharing sites galore these days you can easily delete your entire collection then reclaim them, for free, from these sites. The only labour involved in this process is that involved in taking the time to download and file in your harddrive. One of the unfortunate factors with digital music storage is that it is too easy to acquire, impossible to re-sell, thus making the music contained within also appear worthless.

    Part of my interest in vinyl is unashamed nostalgia, but its refreshing that I’m far from alone is this. All the music I DJ with (deep house) is available on vinyl and if not I simply wouldn’t think of playing it. There’s so, so much music available on vinyl that to limit one’s set to this (or any) medium provides it with a focus that limitless choice can too easily lack. as you’ll have seen from my blog I think that limits and restrictions provide valuable sources for inspiration and that I find the everything-free-all-of-the-time feature of digital music personally unpleasant. That said, I do download LOTS of music for ‘previewing’ on my ipod, just that I don’t value it until I have it on vinyl.

  31. Hats off to you sir. Thank you for laying down the reality of having too much.

  32. thisisian says:

    Wow! ……I really don’t think i’m brave enough to even think about going there!!

    I’ve already gone from a 15,000 12″ collection in the mid 90′s (archived the good stuff, then sold it all for peanuts), & i’m currently going through my very large CD collection, re-ripping absolutely everything at 320 kbps. …i’ll then probably dump/sell all the CD singles, & keep all the albums in storage, in skinny plastic sleeves (dump all the jewel boxes).

    There’s no way i’ll delete anything from my master data collection though. I’m over a terrabyte already, & only getting larger. ….i may be prepared to look at my actual DJing collection on my lappy though. That’s full of rubbish & 75% of it could probably be dumped.

  33. Brave move – it would be interesting to see a playlist of the files you kept – i’m still ‘accumulating’ tracks and several of my folders have more than 1000 tracks in – but I dj for a wide variety of different crowds and ages and its kinda necessary to have a large collection (for requests) – but its sorted into manageable playlists to keep things simple :) also be interested to see the 1994-2005 playlist as I bet there’s some gems in there :)

  34. number 1 rule of thumb for deleting current library: if you’re a club DJ 100% of the time. Delete ALL lo-fi files. Ex: anything under 320K if they are MP3′s. next, i seperate all of my vinyl rips from CD rips. i rip CD’s as AIFF and rip vinyl to OGG or AIFF depending on if it’s vinyl i’m playing out or just listening to. i have other rules for deleting music but for the most part i seperate a lot of my music based on what i’m going to do with it (either listen to it or DJ with the tunes)

  35. For this kind of downsizing you must truly be very much familiar with a, your exact direction you wanna go in the future b, all the tunes you are throwing away as there is no returning after this.

  36. Chmo Pan says:

    I share the “less is more” attitude and I become as well more minimalistic each year.

    One big problem regarding many deejays is their lack of taste and that they start deejaying focusing mainly on beats, dj gear, bpm, and so on… Personally I think somebody should become a dj only if he is able to recognise good music, this normally comes from listening to a lot of good music, this is not always the case and explains the existence of many “shitty collections”, sorry Phil ;-)

    Another problem is caused by hauman nature: We derive a great deal of enjoyment from new musical experiences. However, give anyone the same wonderful tune again and again, and they quickly become familiar with it and the initial enjoyment slowly fades away. The bottom line is that a dj needs adding new “experiences” to his collection and the real challenge lies more in separating the great tunes from the ordinary ones, and yes, why not, removing the bad ones!

    • dennis parrott says:

      Amen, brother. Represent! Gear, beats and BPM only go so far… Sooner or later, you have play some MUSIC!

      I have always said that there are only two types of music (and, no, they are NOT “country” and “western”…), Good Music and Bad Music. Listener gets to choose.

      Sometimes I think people get into DJing for reasons other than loving music. I listen to music more than I watch TV, always have. I love to be able to try to surprise my listeners with gems they haven’t heard in forever… But ultimately, the crowd gets to choose what music is Good or Bad.

      I’ve learned at Dubspot that the gear, the tricks and so on don’t make you a good DJ. It is about your love of the music and your ability to interact with the music you play and the crowd that will make you a good DJ.

      • Macotone says:

        I agree with you but I think there are three types of music: the GOOD, the BAD & the UGLY ;-)

        I am not here to complain, but what really bothers is seeing a so called superstar dj advertising underwear while showing his body and pants…not very much to do with music rather with prostitution :-)

  37. Unfortunately my external hard drive crashed and pretty much forced the loss of my entire music collection dating back as far as I can remember having a computer. What I have left are recent tracks on gig sticks and all my tried and tested music on CD’s plus all the top40 I have on vinyl.

  38. I get the point of throwing away lots of music, but I probably couldn’t do it myself. :P Since I don’t really have the time to actively search for new music I usually download mix-cd’s or compilations, and just too often I’m afraid to miss a new track or think it’ll get better after listening it 3 or 4 times (Which, obviously, I never really get to since there are so much more tracks in my music collection.. ;)

    Next to that I really like it when I hear an old track which I haven’t heard in a while just passing by when spotify is on shuffle. Or of course when I hear an awesome track on the radio or while going out, and I find out I already had it on my laptop for a year! :D

  39. Some DJ’s are collectors, some collectors are DJ’s, like salt and pepper, I like a little of both from time to time.

  40. Macotone says:

    Compliments Phil! To just throw away a big part of your music collection, indicates that you have taken your musical taste to a higher level and that you are very open to new tracks!

    • I am on the lookout for new music more than ever thanks to throwing a load of old stuff – and I know WHY I threw the old stuff away too, which means I’m more tuned to what to let back in to my collection nowadays.

  41. DJ In Flames says:

    I love music too much to do that, sorry!

    • I think you can take it as read that we all love music here, DJ In Flames – we’re just discussing how much of it you need to have a physical copy of on your hard drive.

  42. gbrown44 says:

    when I first decided I neede to being a DJ in my life and upon my first library inspection after it, I noticed I had a lot of garbage in the collection. Gigs upon gigs of music that gat absolutely no burn on my musical court (basketball term, burn as in playing). I didn’t start over, but I did start the habig of junky the things I never listen to. Now I do hope like me Phil that your library was backed up, i’m sure you’ll find that something you’re going need has made it’s way to the recycle bin. When I got my MacPro… I decided only music that i’d play for someone else goes on it… It cvan’t be storage.

  43. “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.”

    …been telling people that for years lol.

    I started doing this kind of thing last year (although sorting through my tunes a few at a time). My collection has shrunk massively too (down to between 600-700 tracks now), but I think it’s helped a lot.

    While I was sorting through the collection, I was obviously auditioning/listening to tracks before hitting delete, something seemed to subliminally stick in my mind about “why I don’t need this track”, etc. This seems to have the added bonus when I go to Beatport or wherever now, I’m much more enlightened about the tracks that I DON’T need to buy.

    • “when I go to Beatport or wherever now, I’m much more enlightened about the tracks that I DON’T need to buy.”

      That is EXACTLY what I’m finding. Also, the tracks I’ve got LEFT are earning their keep now, too. I am looking at them ALL much more critically! :)

  44. grifffff says:

    My laptop recently failed completely and as a result I had to buy a new one. I did back up my old laptop, but the external hard drive also broke. I’m glad in a way because I had about 50 GB of music that I rarely listened to and it was hard to sort through it all.

    At the moment now (I’ve had it for ~3 weeks) I have about 4 GB of music, although some of the songs are albums, round about 1 GB I think.

  45. I guess is all the music you have is just for djing that makes since to just throw it away. To me i dj cause i love listening to music . So to just throw it away cause you dont play at a gig makes little since to me. I have my music collection in itunes for listening pleasure. My crates are for djing. I know i wont play my whole ll cool j collection at a gig but i sure will listen to it at home

  46. Interesting outlook. I can honestly say, that to delete the majority of your music takes some serious guts. I’m not so sure it’s the correct approach, but it’s certainly interesting.
    Let us know if/when you start missing your old tunes.

  47. Stefano says:

    I just keep tracks I wanna play in a dj set on my macbook pro, the rest of my music collection on an external portable drive. This is one of my first music shops. Others are Soundclod, Beatport etc.. If I buy a track I wanna play I keep it on My Mac, otherwise it goes on my external hard drive that receives and gives me music.

    I brought my dj collection from 75.000 to 4.000 also thanks to this article. Another important reason was to make me life simpler, another one was that Serato Itch could manage my 75.000 track Itunes library easily, it took about 1 hour to load it, now it takes just few seconds!

    I am happy with it!!!

  48. This is a very relevant and thought-provoking piece. It ties in nicely with the current interest (well MY current interest anyway) in de-cluttering.

    I sincerely believe that de-cluttering in a physical sense can provide profound benefits in terms of emotional well-being. Thinning out your music collection – in the just the way you’ve described – can make you focus on what you’ve loved all your life: the music, those-top-of-the-pile tunes that make you feel great and can make your audience feel great. It can also move you away from the feeling that you ‘have all the music you need’ and encourage you to be open to hearing some new stuff and keeping your interest fresh. There are some superlative, under-exposed artists out there!

    More than likely, I’ll try something similar – I’m a bit too insecure to jettison things completely and I’d probably end up with an untouched archive, but who knows, maybe I’d even summon up the nerve to press DELETE on that eventually.

    Great piece of writing – thanks!

  49. Terrific article and I commend your determination, Phil.

    OK, now it’s many months later and true confessions: how many tracks do you have now? Sorry couldn’t resist ;-)!!

  50. Stavros says:

    Good article. and it must have taken long hours too to do that. its easy to become a hoarder with digital music. im in the middle of sorting out 500gb of mp3s at the moment. back then i used to leave em as track 1 track 2 etc when ripping them. at least all the tracks of the same album are in the right folder, thank god for that. im more than half way through now. the plan is after its all done im going to put them in a usb hard drive and put it away. no i cant bring my heart to erase em all. after all, hard drives are affordable and dont take much space in a drawer. out of that im picking around 10gb of music that i like and thats it. by the way, im reading about a lot of people complaining about 192 mp3s. unfortunately, most of my music is at that format. some ive done 256 and its only the last year that im doing 320. to be honest, there is a difference but not enough to bother. at the end of the day its better than tape plus… how many times have you been in a club where the speaker setup and the eq settings are so bad that you hear lots of distortion although the dj is using cds, pressumably originals.

  51. There is a lot of wisdom in this move by Phil, which dare I say comes from age.
    When we start out, our obsession with new music drives us hungrily to search out and collect everything we take half a fancy to.
    Like a riff? I’ll buy it. Nice fill? ka-ching!
    This scaling back, and your rationale for it is quite enlightening.

    Phil, you really are well on the path to true enlightenment.
    Does this mean at some stage in the future we will we find you bald and grey bearded, sitting cross-legged on a mountain top – just you and your controller and The One song?

  52. Leo Sanchez says:

    Would just having a playlist set up with only those 500 or so tracks and then still having all the songs you want in your library be a good way too. You could still just tell yourself, “these 500 are the ones I want to focus on djing, if I want to add more more to this, i need to replace it with something”

  53. Pro Audio & DJ Tutor says:

    I have been considering this as I have the same problem. However I can’t bare to throw away a collection i’ve worked so hard to tag, art, rename, key, bpm etc. Plus I love most of my tunes.

    I actually keep all albums separate. I have my DJ folder and then my Albums folder. I find this at least allows me to keep music that i’d never mix away from the decks. Also I have them in folders by genre – which means I can just play stuff from the folder In the style I want to play.

    I do often wish it was like the old days though – I knew where I was with a couple of hundred vinyls. When you start getting into the 1000s there’s no way to keep up.

    In some ways I do feel like my collection is out of control but at least i have all the tunes I love with me – spotify doesn’t dictate what I can and can’t have from my collection. Losing a gem is also very hard as you’ll probably never find it again if you had a very big collection and therefore couldn’t remember the name etc.

    I think the best way might be to keep 2 big hard drives (must have a backup in case one dies) with all your music on. Store then away and just keep a hundred or two on your laptop hard drive. You never know how your taste is going to change so you might really regret losing your archive some day.

    One thing I don’t regret about having a bit of an out of control music library is that the amount of amazing music I have now compared to the vinyl days when I had to rely on what a small record shop (Eastern Bloc) and travel 2 hrs to get there. They rarely had anything I asked for so just had to make do with what the best of what they had. Now my collection is truly mine. Not just filtered from a limited supply the shop owners had chosen / randomly acquired.

    Very good article though. A topic that frequently occupies a lot of my thoughts.

  54. I think less is sometimes more. Last year I had just 3000 tracks in total, and knew all of them upside dowm. Some months ago, I thought I had a really small amount of tracks for what a DJ is expected to have and asked a dj friend for his external hard drive to choose and pick more tracks from it. Ending up having lik 20 000 tracks. And I must say I now don’t even know what track to put next.
    Having so many tracks didn’t improve my DJing as I thought it would do, but hindered it by a HUGE amount. I could look around my perfectly organized 3000 songs and always know like 4 or 5 tracks that would mix well. Now I just have thousands of trakcs I barely know and can’t choose what to put next.
    I was afraid to start deleting some of them, but I guess if Phil does it, it can’t be that bad :P

  55. Chris Webb says:

    Hi Phil,

    Not sure if this will get picked up but I was just wondering how this all worked out for you? I’m currently contemplating something similar, and have started using Spotify, but I’m struggling with not being able to ‘browse’ my non-dj collection via Spotify as I could with my collection within iTunes.

    I would be interested to here how you have set up Spotify to provide your day to day listening ‘needs’, and how the whole minimal collection is going.

    Great website by the way.

    Cheers,
    Chris Webb

    • I have a “single tracks” (for one-off tracks I’ll never DJ with but want to bookmark); a separate playlist for each full album I want to “keep” in Spotify, and that’s it – the rest of the time I’m honestly just shortlisting tunes from my “starred” folder for my DJ playlist :)

      It’s going well, but I’ll write a post about it soon as a kind of follow up!

  56. Cheers for the response – I look forward to the follow up article.

  57. I really like this article but I realized I wouldn’t be able to do that. I am guilty of downloading albums of artists whom I only like one track of. The thing is that aside for DJing for my passion of music, I get booked for gigs and those people all have different tastes. I’ve been mixing for 6 years now (for myself, like I said) and focused on just downloading music I liked. When I finally thought of branching, I realized the public doesn’t always like what I do, and vice versa. I learned to download a lot more mainstream music and pay attention to other parties and club scenes I went to to see what the crowd likes. Now I have a LOT of music that I may not listen to but sure helps me give the people a good show

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