I’ve been thinking about Marie Kondo lately. You know her, right? The internationally renown organizing wonder who is about all things neat and tidy in life. How does she relate to music? Well, increasingly in various online forums I have been chatting with other collectors grappling with the reality of running out of room — and time! — for all the music that they have collected.
And there in lies my conundrum: one of the true reasons I originally started collecting records as a kid was so that I could play any song from any album I wanted at any time without being beholden to the DJ godz at commercial radio. I used to love radio, but by the late 1980s I gave up on it for the most part. For a short time I was interested in “Internet Radio” (now known as “Streaming”) but I have not found that as satisfying as physical media. I even helped launch an early Internet radio technology in the late 90s and early 00s — called TuneTo, which was ultimately integrated into Rhapsody — so I really do understand its appeal. And I do understand and appreciate the convenience factor (I currently use Tidal — with MQA where possible — and plan to explore Qobuz soon).
I have written about my conundrum here on Audiophilereview. In case you missed those thought pieces, you can read them by clicking here and here and here. All this is all fine and good but in my little reality check called “life” I am facing up to a very real need to downsize more than a little bit. I have downsized before, but this time I need to be more strategic.
This time around I am taking to heart some of Marie Kondo’s concepts by looking hard at the albums, CDs, boxed sets, 45s and 78s in my collection and accessing whether they actually bring me joy! I have to look at myself in a musical mirror and ask: “Why are you keeping these?”
For example in the past two years I have downsized some of my beloved Beatles collection quite significantly. At one point I had 10 copies of The White Album, all different variants. Just last week I downsized that again realizing that even though I had a near mint original 1960s US pressing in the collection I really did not need to own it — it did not bring me any extra joy! Also, I realized that I wouldn’t likely ever play it (that is the strategic part of this thought process). It was time to let someone else enjoy and become the caretaker for that particular gem. I have to start working on my collection of 45 RPM singles which has gotten a bit out of hand…
I’ve heard antiques enthusiasts comment that we don’t really “own” the antiques but are simply caretakers until someone else comes along to take over. I feel this way about my music collection, at least about my physical music collection. I do hope my curated musical menagerie will live on and provide joy to others after my time.
Back to The Beatles’ White Album for a moment: I own a beautiful 1978 UK white vinyl Stereo pressing that sounds terrific. My beat up UK Mono pressing holds personal significance as the first Mono copy I ever got my hands on, found at a flea market in Switzerland for next to nothing. I have a very low serial number US pressing given to me by a dear departed friend (and get this: the numbers on the album are the last four digits of his old phone number!). I also own the new deluxe version in 5.1 surround sound on Blu-ray Disc and have the fabulous Beatles in Mono box sets (both LP and CD versions)! Realistically… how many of these will I play over the remainder of my life?
I’ve worked hard to integrate music into my lifestyle. But as I dig down into this new purge I’m giving deep thought to music playback alternatives because, indeed, there are certain albums where the physical version may not be all that important for me personally to own.
I realize this may sound hypocritical given my recent discussions about the joy and power of physical media. I do stick to that tenet, with caveats: recordings which I personally do not play frequently or were made after the golden era of analog recording may be purge candidates. How much digitally-sourced vinyl do I need in my collection? A CD of that music may serve me just fine or perhaps — gasp — even a stream might be OK for certain recordings to which I’m not emotionally connected. Late period catalog of classic rock bands like Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan : I’m talkin’ ’bout you!
For certain artists which I am interested in, maybe I don’t really need to own all those albums on LP or even CD. I recently found a lovely original UK pressing of Rod Stewart’s breakthrough and peak period 1971 release Every Picture Tells A Story and that is pretty fabulous. But do I need anything of Rod’s after 1974 on vinyl or even CD? Heck, even my deep Elvis Costello collection may be a purge target — I know that I will never play that awful sounding original US version of Get Happy ever even though it is a promo copy.
If I can effectively reduce some of my audiophile footprint, if you will, then maybe I will have more room for other good things related to music that bring me joy. At some point when I have some money to spare, I would love to get one of those fancy high end turntables with three different tone arms and cartridges on them, which would replace my two turntables I currently have in my studio-office. If I can find something like my nice old simple NAD 3020 amplifier (a workhorse which I gave away to a friend’s teenage son who was getting into music), I may well get rid of my bulky but still good sounding Denon 3802 AVR (which I no longer use for surround sound given it has no HDMI capabilities).
Most importantly, reducing my audiophile footprint even a little bit is going to help make room for someone new in my life to move in. And that will bring a whole lot of unparalleled joy.