Yesterday, Kirk wrote a great post delineating four ways of protecting your digital music collection. His overarching rules of maintaining a mindset of total paranoia and redundancy redundancy redundacy are absolute gospel truth.
If you don’t know where or how to start, or don’t have the time, money or tech-savvyness to do things like store your music offsite in a safe-deposit box, or build a RAID, here are a couple of strategies for incorporating back-ups into your natural music-geek lifestyle. None of these are are foolproof, nor should they replace the methods that Kirk proposed. But they might be natural offshoots of things that you are already doing with your music.
- Focus on Your Favorites
Let’s face it, you can only listen to a single song at a time (unless you are listening to Zaireeka), and there are are only so many hours in a day. If you’re serious about collecting music, and you’ve been doing for a decent amount of time with no plans to ever stop, you probably have more music in your collection than you could possibly listen to for the rest of your life. Most music geeks ignore this simple math because there is no way they could actually stop: it’s death, right?
However, there is probably 20% of your music collection that you end up listening to 80% of the time. So start with those first. If that seems too much, then the top 10% or 5% or whatever makes sense to you. The point is, if you love a song, copy it. And copy it again. And copy it a third time.
And recontextualize the songs: make artist and genre best-ofs; time period compilations; theme mixes. Anything to get an individual song you love into as many different places as possible. For example, a song like “Feb 14” by the Drive-by Truckers could go into a DBT “greatest hits”; an Americana playlist for iTunes; a 2006 compilation, or even a mix .mp3 CD for your Significant Other.
Which leads us to …
- The Friends and Family Plan. This is simple. If you are lucky enough to have friends and/or family who share elements of your taste in music, then burn them CDs and DVDs.
Not only have you created a physical off-site copy of that music, that physical disc is likely to be copied onto somebody’s hard drive, and the music on it possibly backed up. If you have a disaster, it will make it that much more easier to restore those parts of your collection.
Oh yeah, you also get the extra karmic benefit of possibly turning somebody on to life-changing music. You never know when a random song is going to spark a life-long obsession, and that random song could fuel a ton of purchases. More than once in my life, a single song on a “home taping is killing music” cassette or CD that someone made for me has spurred me to go out and buy an artist’s entire ouvre.
- Buy the CD. This might seem totally counter-intuitive, but I still purchase CDs, although I almost instantly rip those CDs to mp3z for everyday use in the iPod and Audiotron. (BTW, I do the same thing with all music I buy from iTunes — the first thing I do is set it free as .mp3z) So why buy them? Part of it is just music-geek momentum: I’ve got all of the other Sonic Youth CDs, so I may as get the pretty awesome Rather Ripped.
Beyond that, however, commercial CDs still have their uses. Obviously, they are the highest-quality physical back-up of a particular album. Also, let’s never forget that mp3z are still compressed, and someday we will all have enough cheap storage to do straight uncompressed high-fidelity .wav rips of CDs and listen to them in the same way we listen to mp3z, but that’s another story for another time.
Once again, this is just for music you really love, and as always, I would suggest that you buy used, or from one of the CD clubs, rather than paying full retail price.
Like I said, these are not solutions for the bulk of your music collection — at the very least, you should get some external hard drives and put them on your network — but they will help you recover at least the music that you can’t live without.