I finally finished unpacking them and have come to the conclusion… I have too many CDs!

Moving is a pain. This particular move was especially painful. From the damage that was done to our previous landlord’s floors to the moldy bread and rotting potatoes we found packed in our stuff, I count this move to Texas as one of the most challenging in my lifetime. And as I was sitting on the floor two nights ago, unloading my collection of compact discs, I realized how glad I am that it’s possible to download media these days.

How many CDs do I own? Honestly, I don’t know. I lost count years ago. I would guess the total number is somewhere over 1,000 discs that I have collected since Christmas 1989, when I got my very first CD player as a present. I usually keep them alphabetized and in sections. I have a rock section, a country/bluegrass section, a jazz section, classical section, holiday section, and a new age section. It was getting close to 10:00pm and I still had a few stacks of discs to organize. With a sigh of disgust, I finally decided to just start putting them on the shelves willy nilly. I used to be so anal retentive about keeping my collection straight, but now that I have a computer that does it, I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.

I remember when I was growing up, sitting on the couch next to my dad’s huge stereo. It had a turntable and an 8 track player. I would put on a big pair of headphones and listen to records, tapes, and 8 tracks for hours. Then in the mid 80s, people started trading in their cassette tapes and vinyl records for compact discs. My very first compact disc was Phil Collins’ 1989 release, But Seriously. Over the years, I became a very enthusiastic consumer of CDs. They didn’t scratch like records. They didn’t get caught in the machine like tapes. They didn’t change programs mid song like 8 tracks. And they came in relatively small packages that were easy to carry. In fact, they were so easy to carry that they were originally sold in long boxes to prevent people from ripping them off.

Nowadays, you can buy songs individually or buy an album. You can store the music on your computer or on a cloud. When you move, you don’t have to pack up boxes of CDs… or movies or books, for that matter. But what do you lose when you don’t have those physical items anymore? Well, for one thing you lose artwork. There was a time when albums included some awesome artwork. Hell, when my dad purchased the Purple Rain soundtrack on vinyl for me back in 1985, I got a free poster to hang on my wall! Try that with a download.

You might lose the concept album concept. If people can buy individual songs instead of whole albums, they probably will. But that will mean that an album based around a single concept may become a thing of the past. That’s kind of a shame, since sometimes concept albums turn out to be very artistic.

You might also lose music stores. If people don’t need to buy tangible items like CDs, vinyl albums, or cassettes, what good is a music store? I used to love going to them in another relic of the past, the indoor shopping mall, and thumbing through discs, looking for a new treasure to add to my collection. Then I would take the new album home and read the liner notes while I played it from start to finish. Now that people can download their music, there’s less need for brick and mortar stores and less need to hire people who are music geeks to run them. Come to think of it, you’ll also lose special shelves for CDs and other media. I think downloads also put an end to music clubs like Columbia House and BMG Music.

On the other hand, you’ll also lose some of those big heavy cardboard boxes full of CDs when you move. And given how traumatic this last move has been, I don’t know that that’s such a bad thing. One other thing I’ve lost are the big stacks of discs I used to keep on my front seat when I’d go on a road trip. Now that my car can connect to my iPod, there’s no need for CDs anymore. That means I don’t have to worry about CDs that fall to the floor in my front seat when I have to slam on the brakes. And I don’t have to worry about cracking the jewel cases when I take my discs on the road.

In any case, I have moved a lot of my collection from CD to computer, so in the week we were in our new city without my precious CD collection, I still had most of my favorite music. I still buy the occasional CD when I want the rare album that isn’t available as a download. But I almost never use my CD player anymore. As soon as that CD comes to me, I put it on my computer.

I still have too many CDs. Thanks to downloads, I’m not adding them as quickly as I used to. And hopefully, next time I move, I won’t have to buy any new CD shelves for new additions to my collection.