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“Should we throw out our CDs?”

This email arrived overnight from Katherine.

My husband and I have a couple hundred CDs and we haven’t touched them in over 5 years. We recently agreed to get rid of them, but somehow it just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. Sure, they don’t take up a whole lot of room, but let’s say there’s some sort of internet apocalypse in ten years, will the CDs still work or will they have degraded beyond use? Most of these CDs are 15-20 years old.

Looking forward to your sage advice,


My immediate reaction was “GAWD, NO!” But then again, I’m a packrat when it comes to music, which required the construction of a room I call The CD Vault in my basement office, which is now the home to about 10,000 discs. I don’t need them all, of course.  In fact, I rarely access them because the ones I really, really want to hear have long been digitized–but I can’t bear to part with any of them.

I have had record show people comb through my collection for purchase, but I only sell the doubles or ones that I definitely don’t want or need anymore. Even then, though, I feel a pang when I see then walk out the door.

I also have memories of the mid-90s when we were told that vinyl was dead and people couldn’t ditch their records fast enough. Now look where we are.

What if Kim Jong-Un detonates an EMP device over North American that wipes out all electronic data? Society will probably collapse in a few months, but at least your records and CDs will be safe.

My advice to Katharine was to cull her collection and dump the outright dogs. The rest? Put ’em someplace cool and dry. Although CDs can degrade, they should be good for a while yet.

Thoughts on this?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38300 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

5 thoughts on ““Should we throw out our CDs?”

  • I fully expect CDs to make a resurgence in a few years, not for regular consumers but for music collectors. It’ll take some time, but eventually people are going to miss the tactile experience of CD booklets and artwork, liner notes and photos with their music.

    To be fair, I used to work in the music industry in the 1990s so I have a huge collection of discs. I check the thrift store racks all the time and I continually find super-rare singles, imports, reissues, independents and bootlegs, many of which can’t be found on streaming services.

    I expect streaming to eventually become more restrictive and expensive, which may cause some people to get nostalgic for a time when you bought music that you actually owned and could re-sell or give away as you liked, as opposed to just paying licensing fees for access to it.

    The big irony about the slow death of CDs is how great the modern ones are. CD packaging and presentation is better than ever and the prices are the lower than they were in the mid-90s heyday. If I’m looking for a new release, it’s hard to pass up a CD at $12.99 when the vinyl is being offered at $29.99

  • I agree! Don’t part with them, only the ones you really don’t want anymore. A big part of my life is taken up by making my own CD “Mix Tapes” or compilations. I would never part with any of them. I have been digitizing them and backing them up as I go along. When I kick the bucket, maybe no one will care, or want them, but I don’t care. It makes me happy for now and gives an old guy something to do in his spare time.

  • i did give mine up once.. well.. they’re still all gone. i made a decision about a decade ago to move overseas, which was supposed to be a permanent thing. it lasted about 2.5 years and i had to start all over again. the music i had grown up with was all gone, and even though i digitized all of it, it still isn’t the same going through it all and feeling a real emotion based on album art or some other emotional trigger that only the physical copy can.

  • Don’t part with them!
    I recently sold my 2,700 vinyl records and 500 CDs thinking that I no longer wanted to haul around 22+ boxes when I moved house.
    Besides, I thought, I had most of them on my iPod (not the same thing in terms of access and visceral appeal). In my mistaken mind it was time to let go of the physical and move toward the flame of the digital.
    I regret it everyday.
    I miss my LPs and in retrospect I know I had many gems from the 60s-90s.
    My go to dream has now changed to wanting to win a lotto not to buy a house in the Okanagan valley but to one of buying back all my records and them some…

  • Pingback: Chucking My CD Collection Seems Like A Great Idea Until It Doesn’t – Vomit Comet

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