Should You Sell Your Physical Music Collection and Embrace the Cloud?

I’ve lost count of how many records and CDs I have. Is it 15,000? Maybe it’s 20,000. And whenever I get any new piece of vinyl or CD, I refuse to throw it out. I feel I need to keep everything–you know, just in case.

I’m a music hoarder. I admit it.

This, of course, comes with its downsides. A basement jammed with records. An office closet overflowing with CDs. A pile of CDs on the floor that never seems to get filed and instead only grows larger with each passing week. And an angry wife.

“Why don’t you get rid of this stuff?,” she says. “You’re never going to listen to most of it ever again. It’s just taking up space!”

She’s right, of course, but my music collection has become so much a part of my identity over the last four decades that selling it off would be like going all James Franco on my arm. Can’t do it. Can’t, can’t, can’t.

But maybe this is a psychological barrier that can be overcome. From Salon:

In March, Cuepoint ran an interesting article called “Selling Your Records Will Ruin Your Life.” The title was somewhat misleading, because the essay delved into the psychology of collecting, and didn’t shy away from talking about the positive aspects of purging purchased music. “Part of collecting is knowing when to let go,” wrote the article’s author, Bethlehem Shoals. “If you’re not willing to admit that something just doesn’t move you, or that dollar value sometimes takes precedence over the inherent value of good music, you’re a hoarder. Curation is an over-used word, but if you don’t curate your collection, you’re little more than a hoarder.”

That last bit unsettled me slightly, for completely personal reasons. My physical music collection is, to put it nicely, unwieldy and completely out of control. It wasn’t always this way: When I started buying CDs in the mid-’90s, I was limited by my allowance and parental willingness to drive me to record stores. But when I started writing about music professionally later in the decade, the promos started pouring in. While this avalanche included plenty of final-art albums, it also involved  personalized advance CDs, burned albums and unfinished copies of records, which kept piling up because throwing them out felt like a waste (and getting rid of them didn’t feel like a good option due to security reasons). Even with this steady stream of music coming my way, I still bought plenty of CDs, both new releases and catalog records.

Keep reading, hoarders.


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.

2 thoughts on “Should You Sell Your Physical Music Collection and Embrace the Cloud?

  • May 14, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I’m positive you will always have a larger music collection than me but if you pared it down to only the albums that you truly love, imagine how much joy browsing that carefully curated collection would bring. Your own personal list of essentials.

    It’s an interesting problem. I think everyone struggles with clutter to some extent.

  • May 19, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I culled my CDs down to only the music I love a few years ago … but it was too late for any “selling”. I could barely even give them away. Still have a filebox of CDs I don’t want, and will ultimately probably end up throwing out.


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