Breaking The Tether: Life as a Musical Hoarder

The Beatles

I’ve been using tethered music services since roughly 2004, and I’ve had my entire music collection synched on my computer since 2008. That’s right — it’s been two years since I last used a CD player to enjoy new music. I hardly would expect to be the type to rail against the modern, mp3-cenric world of music enjoyment. I’ve had my Napster subscription, my unlimited streaming that until this week has kept me at the forefront of new music. What’s not to love? I could find any new album I wanted and review it with a few clicks of the mouse and a moment to connect headphones.

But this week brought the end to my years of Napster use. While the company has always had issues, they decided this week to get rid of their “Client software” for anyone who wasn’t a Napster-to-Go subcriber. Since I was paying only $5 a month for their streaming service and a few mp3s a month, I would no longer get access to the software that essentially served as my music library — a jukebox, library system and playlist organizer all in one, which (when logged in) could also provide me with the access to Napster’s multi-million song streaming library.

Instead, I’d have to access their online streaming system, which would lack proper playlist support (only Napster songs would show up on playlists, not songs from your hard drive). Worse, songs I’d paid for on Napster and added to my library would only play from my hard drive. If I was accessing a playlist that had songs I’d bought, they would not stream online. I’d have to find them on my hard drive and play them via Media Player or some other jukebox system.

I decided this was too much to deal with while still paying Napster an indefinite monthly fee for lessened service, so I cut the tether. I thought this would be a painful experience, having to reorganize my library in a new program after six years using Napster’s system.

You know what? Cutting that cord’s actually done me a service. I’ve had to drop myself into my music collection and swim around, finding music I’d forgotten I have, reacquainting myself with a plethora of music I hadn’t heard in years. It’s a problem every music fan with a large collection will understand — whether on CDs or vinyl, a large collection eventually lends itself to “playing favorites.” You frequently listen to what you access the most, and the rest gets rediscovered when you decide to dig through the vaults and force yourself to hear something “new.”

I thought I’d gone through that process for the last time when I put all my CDs into digital rotation by spending a few months last year ripping them to my hard drive. But now that I’m reorganizing in Media Player, I’ve had the chance to make friends with albums I haven’t heard since that point. This morning I’m enjoying The Beatles: CD Singles Collection, a stunning tour through all the best songs the Fab Four produced during their lifespan as a band; this afternoon I will probably drop in to visit Simon & Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac or Lyle Lovett. Regardless, cutting the cord to my digial streaming service has forced me to jump blindfolded into the music I already own rather than relying on someone else to give me access to what music I don’t. And what I thought would be painful has been reinvigorating.

I’ll still be on the lookout for the best streaming option, to give me access to the new music I need to hear in order to keep up with my freelance writing. But for the time-being, I think I’ll avoid getting sucked back into a system like Napster, choosing to enjoy the wealth of music I already own but which I rarely hear. Such, I suppose, is the life of a musical hoarder. But music wasn’t meant to be collected and not heard; it was meant to be studied, savored and shared.

I’ll be trying hard not to forget that.

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