Most of last year was spent listening, scanning, typing, and checking.
A certain monster had gotten hungry again, and there were several boxes of morsels stashed away in the basement.
The morsels were my “secondary CD collection”, and the monster is known as discogs.com. All in all I rummaged through some 300 discs, and I also added several records, tapes and downloadables.
Once more, I got to explore new music by listening to old recordings. Gratis.
We’re in 2017, and I still have little use for streaming services like Deezer, Spotify or Tidal to “suggest” what I might like (or might like to buy) based on listening or browsing habits. I still don’t have to be online to hear music, and I still don’t need to worry about data caps or dropped connections while moving even though most music was listened to in the car, during the daily commute, all nice and cosy, with the CD changer playing a random disc as I try to identify which of the current batch it is, all the while taking notes and trying to associate it with the corresponding jewel case — random, unbiased and as detached as can be. Surprise is the serendipitous byproduct of randomness.
Indeed, there were some unexpected gems to be discovered.
I also revisited database entries made as long as a decade ago, adding details and codes for which dedicated fields didn’t exist back then, finally getting them as “complete and correct” as possible.
Only real geeks would delight in identifying pressing plants from tiny SID codes, noting such subtle differences as mirrored vs. clear clamping areas, logo placement, price codes and other minutiae inherent to media carriers that take up physical shelf space.
Streaming media bears no such excess baggage. It’s awfully boring.
No matter where a stream originates, no matter where the performer or his music comes from, no matter how obscure or exotic it sounds, all you’re hearing is just a progressive download of ephemeral data coming in from your nearest access point.
You may as well listen to FM radio. No substance.
There’s nothing as tangible as feeling or analysing everything about this Polynesian gospel CD that came all the way from the Cook Islands. Never would I have imagined to be able to listen to hip-hop from Frankfurt, Inuit/Nordic folk music from Sweden, Dixieland jazz from Czechia, electro-jazz from Canada, classics on marimba or accordion, or even a postcard-mounted audiobook describing the history of a monument — all in the same day.
Thank goodness there were no Romanian discs!
Especially bothersome was this CD titled হলুদিয়া পাখি which goes as far as including adverts tacked to the end of the regular album tracks. As for reading, identifying and manually pecking in those Bengali letters via a virtual keyboard? What a tedious job!
Then there were a bunch of cover-mount discs such as those that came with the German “Allegra” women’s magazine which, at the time of research, was due to re-launch after several years out of print and, by the time this was written a few months later, had closed down again. Strange coincidences galore, I tell you.
As could be expected, some of it was utter crap; a large chunk were library material from the stables of De Wolfe, Hastings, Selected Sound and Rouge Music — and these aren’t exactly produced for listening to the way you would listen to a proper album. Some discs, therefore, went straight into the trash. The vast majority will end up on the 2nd hand market, a few will be kept as “reference material”, and fewer still have actually found a home in my personal collection.
But are they worthless? That depends on how you define “worth”.
If one takes into account the CD sales figures at discogs.com for the last three months (thanks, Diognes) you’ll notice that the top sellers are definitive box sets which include either a massive amount of CDs, or compact discs are but one of many media formats in the full package.
That’s not to say individual CDs are worthless: Looking at the top 100 unique CD-only products (PDF), you’ll notice that a copy of Belgian thrash metal act Evil Sinner’s eponymous album shifted for €800 while the obscure Prince album “One Nite Alone…” (available exclusively via his website) went for €500. Amazingly, even what appears to be a standard “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation sold for as much as $745 (exchange rate) because it is the first of its kind appearing on compact disc (of which only 500 were pressed in 1984, shortly after the format took off).
Needless to say, collector’s editions are always collectible, limited editions will always be limited, and the recently-deceased eternally command high prices.
My particular lot of CDs will probably be of little monetary value on the marketplace but they’re certainly not worthless: Each disc is a treasure trove of obscure historical artefacts containing volumes of additional metadata in the form of names, locations, photos, and strange connections. I’m a sucker for trivia.
Take, for instance, this one-trick pony nu-metal/alt. rock band’s album where some casual scratching revealed that one of its members later went on to be involved in the sickeningly cute Kuschel Song by the nonsensical Snuggle Bunny Jamster ringtone empire or how it was discovered that Britney Spears started off in a cute little all-girl casting group named Innosense! CDs are records of history that do not easily forget.
Once you start drawing lines between seemingly unrelated items of data you’ll come to the terrifying conclusion that quite a bit of inadvertent doxing is done via Discogs.
Big data starts as minor trivia. But that’s topic for another essay.
All photos and scans by hmvhDOTnet