AFTER a few decades of music collecting, I have amassed about a thousand CDs (not including another stash of vinyl albums in boxes in the closet). At the height of my music buying, I would go to my favorite record store the Tuesday after payday (Tuesday is when new releases traditionally come out) and spend up to $100 on new music. That would be total some $200 a month. I don’t remember having that much disposable income, but that’s what I spent — buying six or seven compact discs at each visit, ranging from independent labels to perennial pop favorites, classical or jazz to hidden gems I had heard about from magazines (then list-serves, then websites), and word of mouth.
And that’s just what I spent on recorded music. I would also go out at least one night a week to a venue to hear a band.
When I worked at TIME and wrote a little (very little) about music and covered events like SXSW, I got on music publicists’ lists, and they’d send me new releases in advance. That made my collection balloon so much that I ran out of shelf space in both my office and Brooklyn apartment. They ended up in boxes. And, too lazy to sort through before I moved midwest, they were schlepped to my Chicago condo and have been sitting in closets.
All of that has tapered quite a bit these days. I don’t go hear live music as often as I used to (though I have lots of tickets for upcoming shows — including the Stones in Milwaukee in June — and I subscribe to the Chicago Symphony). And because I now have much of that collected music at my fingertips — either from the discs I’ve digitized in iTunes or via online music services — I don’t buy many CDs these days. That $200 I used to pay to support the music industry has dropped to my monthly Spotify $10.99 premium account payment.
I still buy the latest work of favorite artists at my local record store — to support both the artists and the shop (recent purchases include the latest releases from Lucinda Williams and My Brightest Diamond). And I make it a habit to buy the CD of any musician I hear at a live venue whose music I dig (recently, The Maytags from Iowa and Swedish Americana artist Sofia Talvik). It gives me a chance to chat with the musicians after, and to support them with a little gas money as they drive to their next gig. Continue reading “Lessons from a lifetime of music collecting”