How Much Is Too Much Music?

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing two great Canadian artists (Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good) share the stage at the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa, Ontario.  Like any concert I attend, I made sure to track down the merch table.  I didn’t have any Matthew Good in my collection, so I hoped to obtain a copy of his latest album, Something Like A Storm.  Thankfully, it was there, so I left the booth happy.

A surname that inspired many one-word reviews

However, I must say that I was rather intrigued and impressed by the booth’s stock of vinyl, the great majority of them being Our Lady Peace albums I already owned on CD (though Spiritual Machines was still tempting me).  Regarding the Good album, I chose the CD over the vinyl equivalent (The CD was $15, and the vinyl was $35).  I gave brief thought to some vinyl, but walked away.  I don’t know why I didn’t whip out my phone to do a price comparison against the booth’s prices, but once I checked when I returned home hours later, I instantly began kicking myself.  The album I was most-strongly considering purchasing, The Matthew Good Band’s 2-LP edition of Beautiful Midnight, was listed at that concert for at least ten dollars cheaper than the going rate on the internet (perhaps even more of a deal when considering the shipping costs).  Weirdly enough, I still think about that record, but as more time grows between me and the concert, I ask myself: Don’t I have enough music already?

If my RateYourMusic collection list is to be believed, I own 1,497 recordings across CD, vinyl, cassette, and digital formats, and I know that doesn’t account for everything. I know that there are plenty of music collectors out there that think that figure is relatively minuscule, but I’m going to run through some quick math.  I’ll go with the assumption that each of these recordings average a half an hour in length, a low-end estimate if you factor in the dozens of multi-album sets that figure includes.  That still leaves me with (at minimum) 750 hours of music to choose from.  If I actually broke it down further, and even went as far to include my roommate/twin brother’s collection, that number easily doubles.  Plus there are concert videos that I haven’t catalogued.

How in-depth can I (or anybody) appreciate over two month’s worth of songs?  I’ve given up on the act of memorizing lyrics long ago.  Hell, I get flustered and forgetful whenever I try to memorize words that I created (thank heavens my ill-fated attempt at stand-up comedy didn’t get leaked to the internet!).  From a musical perspective, that’s far too much to place in my memory banks as well.  Should I feel bad if my ears catch part of an Art Ensemble of Chicago composition and can’t remember if it’s off of A Jackson In Your House or Reese and the Smooth Ones (or if it’s even from a recording I own)?  How hard can it get to keep that sort of thing straight?  It seems as if I can’t go more that two or three days without thinking about an album I haven’t listened to in over a year.

How many times are you supposed to listen to any given album in your collection?  Aside from my last haul of vinyl, I’ve listened to everything at least once, with the great majority of it I’ve heard at least three times by my estimation.  Is it better to own 50 albums and know them note-for-note, or to grab as much as you can if only to spread a bit of support to a wide range of artists?  There are far too many life variables to say what is best for any particular person.  As much as it pains me to think it, there are some that don’t own any albums at all, and consider them a waste of space.  Thankfully, not one of them have offered to help de-clutter my collection.

Perhaps it’s my status as a bachelor that makes discipline on this end a tad more difficult.  I do what I can to put money away for the future.  Should family responsibilities one day make me  significantly slow down my music-consuming ways, I’d think that would be an easy sacrifice to make. There’s enough music in my possession to bond over with a child if I become a father, and it’s an assortment diverse enough for even the most discerning of potential girlfriends or wives.  Unless she’s big on modern country or EDM, then she should take a hard look elsewhere.

Going back to the Matthew Good Band album I passed on, I could always walk to the opposite side of my apartment, and grab the CD off my brother’s shelf.  As long as we’re living together, do I need to even bother buying an album that he already owns?  I really need to take more advantage of his collection.  Even when we move apart to different locations, there are plenty of resources online with which I could stream the album.  I’m the type of guy that would rather own a physical copy of an album, movie, or book, but why not exercise a bit of willpower every once in a while?

I’m going through the process of tracking all my collection through to get an even more detailed picture of what exactly I have.  I even look forward to contributing to their community by sharing pressing variants that no user has submitted to the database.  I only run through a few stacks of albums at a time, and I’m already catching ones with a bit too much dust on the packaging for my liking.  So far, I’ve tracked plenty of albums I’ve been meaning to listen to that my perpetually-growing “new arrivals” pile has made me neglect.  As I’m putting the finishing touches on this blog, I’m listening to Cynic’s Kindly Bent To Free Us for the first time in a few years.  I also own several vinyl albums that I’ve only listened to once that I will soon spin again, such as The Jeff Beck Group’s Rough and Ready and the Tim Berne Sextet’s The Ancestors.  A bit of an AC/DC craving is urging me to put Highway to Hell and Let There Be Rock back into the rotation, and my upcoming Judas Priest concert is reminding me that I could get to know Point of Entry better.

Fun fact: I didn’t notice the white line was printer paper until buying the vinyl

One way I’ve thought of limiting my music spending is by setting some milestones for myself, envisioning points months down the line where I can look forward to treating myself.  My birthday is coming up in June, so I’ve made a vow with my twin brother to not go shopping for music until that day.  Seeing as our birthday falls on a Saturday, this would give us the opportunity to  enjoy the whole day, and get a little shop in.  I’ll try a record shop I haven’t been to, potentially Zap Records in Cobourg, but I haven’t quite made up my mind.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish small goals of that nature.  I’ll be attending a few concerts over that period, but don’t anticipate buying merch at any show unless I’m really impressed with the selection.  I’ll even make sure to do my price shopping well in advanced.

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