In an article in Trebuchet Magazine Jeremy Shlosberg makes a number of interesting points about the somewhat overwhelming amount of music released each year. As he notes, according to Nielsen SoundScan, 97,751 albums were released in 2009 (1). Shlosberg estimates that these alone would take up to 100 years to listen to. And that's just one year's releases. There is, it is fair to say, a lot of music in the world to choose from.
I've written before about this in relation to the ease of 'releasing' music on the internet, and quality control issues therein, but Shlosberg's article also chimes with something that I've been thinking about, and acting upon, recently. Having been buying records and CDs for a very good number of years, I own several thousand. I certainly have no intention of calculating how many years it would take me to listen to them all. However, over recent years, I've begun to significantly reduce the amount of records and CDs I have.
I first had a cull of several hundred CDs about five years ago, just before my daughter was born, so that she could have a bedroom that wasn't lined with shelves of my CDs, and to free up some much-needed cash. There was also the admission to myself that I didn't actually listen to all of the CDs and records I owned. Some, like a raft of drum 'n' bass records, were very much of their time and I simply wasn't in that time any more.
With my new - and very welcome - parental duties, I had far less time to listen to music than ever before. The time that I did have therefore became more precious and I preferred to fill it with music that I knew I loved. I became less inclined to listen to music that I merely "liked" and pretty much ceased to actively seek out new music in the way I had done previously. For the first time in thirty-odd years, the amount of music I listened to was decreasing, and quite significantly so.
One unforeseen but happy consequence of getting rid of so many CDs and records, and sticking to music that I loved, was that I started enjoying music far more than I had done in years. I started to listen properly again - that is to say, I began to really listen, in isolation and focusing on the details, rather than having music as a soundtrack to doing other things.
This rediscovered 'closer listening' has continued now that my daughter is older and I have a bit more time to listen to records and CDs again. Give me a decent pair of headphones, a comfortable chair and a pile of my favourite records and I'm a happy man. I still buy and enjoy bits and pieces of new music (Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory for the Sullen have released albums every bit as good as anything I was listening to in the 80s or 90s, for example), but it is albums like "Unknown Pleasures", "The Smiths", "Treasure", "Secrets of the Beehive" and "Spirit of Eden", records that I must have played literally hundreds of times over the years, that continue to provide me with most hours of pleasure. And it's all been a bit of a revelation, really. After years of feeling at times a little jaded with (and by) the world of music, I've recaptured why I loved music in the first place.