Over the years I have stored music on just about every medium that one can. I started off storing music on cassette tapes. I saved my insignificant and infrequent funds for tapes. Every tape I bought was 2 albums I could record. On occasion I purchased a 10 pack of tapes. That was heaven. The sheer potential of it was amazing. There was a point when a tax was proposed on blank tapes because they were being used to record music. I remember this scaring the daylights out of me.

I also have recorded on 8-Track tapes. Ugh… annoying. Who wants their Jimi Hendrix blistering extended jam split into 2 separate tracks. Never understood 8-Tracks. That method was short lived and never got off the ground for me.

In my college days I used cassettes almost exclusively until the day that I got my hands on a reel to reel player/recorder. Oh my God was that thing cool. Even if it wouldn’t have worked I would have loved it anyway. I used it to record quite a few things… including my copy of Jimi Hendrix “In The West” so that I could listen to it without playing it anymore. Turned out that the blank reels were fairly expensive and not easily found. I guess only nerds like me were still using them for home taping. I did however make one good score of tapes from a former employer. That is a story for another post.

Eventually, I had so many commercial tapes, and a 200 + tape bootleg collection (still another post) that it filled 3 cigarette carton sales racks cast off from a local grocery store. I had a LOT of tapes. There were so many that about every week I had to collect the ones I had brought up from the basement to play and bag them and return them to the basement and file them.

In later years digital became the thing. WAV files and then MP3 and FLAC and a host of others. Remember Napster? If you are reading this I bet you do. Downloading took over my life.

My good friend Dalton was the first I knew of that could make his own CD from files on his computer. I was in total awe of his scuzzy drive and CD burning rig. I bought a 10 pack of blank CD’s and we spent a weekend at his place and made about 10 cd’s. I was 100% jealous, but wouldn’t get my crack at making CD’s until some years later when I got a new PC. When that happened and I realized I had the power, I made gobs of CD’s. I also discovered I could make data discs. I bought a special portable CD player that would play burned disc and then I was portable! Bliss.

At first the notion of a data disk didn’t have much meaning for me… but then one day my PC told me that it was full and I couldn’t save any more files. ?!?! I was distraught. I began thinking about making discs that had the files on them that I could make CD’s from in the future. This began a long period of collecting then burning to disc tons of music. Whenever I ran out of space on my PC I would spend a few days burning discs and make room. You could fit about 10 to 20 albums in MP3 format on a CD when you wrote it as a data disc. I bought CD wallets that held about 40 discs and began to fill those pretty fast. I had 8 of these wallets before I knew it. Then I bought bigger ones and transferred the disc to the bigger ones from the small ones. It was a process. I made tags for each disc that noted what album titles were one each disc. Blank discs were like gold and I began to buy them by the spindle. This was made the music portable and I would take the CD’s to work and use Winamp to play them. It was also a fast way to share stuff. I got several CD’s of music routinely from Dalton and from people I worked with. I thought I was in heaven. Again I bought a special portable CD player that played MP3 discs. Double Bliss.

Then, about 3 PC’s later I got a DVD burner.

I stopped music in the volume that I had been, but by this time I was also dealing with I-Pods and podcasts and even videos and movies. It was a task to go to the basement, dig through the CD wallets and find what I wanted. Bring it up, add it to my I-Pod, or put it in a jewel case to transport to work to listen to. My I-Pod was only 30 GB and only a fraction of my music fit. Boo hoo. I know.

I struck upon an idea one day. What if I took those CD’s, copied them into the computer, then burned them to DVD as data DVD’s? How many CD’s of albums would fit on a DVD? As it turns out… a lot. So I started the process. I transformed my CD’s into DVD’s and cut my physical collection of music media by three quarters. It was amazing. I had everything in 2 giant wallets by the end. Ultimately, about 600 gig of music. I’m sure there are those out there that have far more. This for me however was the culmination of about 30 plus years of recording music. I made double backups of all Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails and a few others. I achieved the final DVD in 2009 and in a stroke of karma building gave away most of the original data CD’s to co-workers and friends.

I even bought a tape to PC converter to begin the process of converting all my bootleg tapes to digital. That is a half of a lifetime project as well. I had to digitize my precious, personally bootlegged Buddy Guy tape. This was one of the Buddy Guy shows that Dalton and I went to (yet still another upcoming post).

I was going 100% digital.

Then a strange thing happened.

I found I only listened to what was on my I-Pod and rarely if ever went to the trouble of getting out the DVD’s to add more to my I-Pod or get something new to listen to. It was weird. Now that I had all my music cataloged and preserved I STILL found it difficult to have on hand what I wanted when I wanted it.

I set up my home stereo to play from my I-Pod and have 3 I-Pod docks throughout the house. This seems to work best. Of course my ultimate dream was to have all my music at the tips of my fingers and to be able to shuffle through it all randomly. So, I went to the trouble every once in a while, but largely just played CD’s in my car and I-Tunes/I-Pod at work with my laptop.

An incident happened in 2010 however that sprang me forward quite unexpectedly into a new and surprisingly satisfying method of storage. I discovered one of my coworkers was a big time Beatle fan and I mentioned I had some really non-mainstream stuff that he might want. I brought in the DVD of all the Beatle stuff I had and began to copy it into my laptop so that I could create a DVD for him. Part way through the copy, it told me that it couldn’t read part of the disc. I broke out in a cold sweat. There were 2 CD’s on the DVD that I couldn’t copy to the laptop. There was a scratch. Ugh…

It began to dawn on me just how vulnerable these DVD’s were. Each contained about 40 to 50 albums and could be damaged by scratches that could barely be seen. I bought DVD buff/polish and tried to fix the DVD, but it actually made it worse. Then about 2 months later when trying the same procedure for someone who wanted some SRV I came across the same issue.

I decided then and there that the only way to go was to copy all the DVD’s onto an external hard drive. This would eliminate the scratch scenario and ALSO make the entire collection portable. It would also allow me to back them up. So, I started copying all the DVD’s into an external hard drive. When compiled completely then I backed it up to another. So, now I have 2 copies of everything and they can’t be scratched. I can also bring the portable external to work and play it like a jukebox.

Turns out, in that 600 gig of music I had some stuff that was duplicated and some that I reconsidered keeping.  So I was able to fit, just, all of what I am keeping, 30 plus years worth, on a 500 gig external. I carry it in a padded case in my work backpack and it is part of my daily music fix. It works on any PC or laptop and is easy to update and backup.

I buy almost all my music from Amazon now. What few physical CD’s I have left I will likely send to for digitization and sale. I am about 99.9% digital now.

I only wish I still had my tapes that I recorded in front of the radio speakers when I was a kid, my first recordings, so that I could digitize those as well. Sigh….

1 Comment

  1. That sounds dangerous, just walking around with all your music. Sounds like you need a back up for your external? 🙂

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