Who Gets My Music When I Die?

As you might expect, I have a rather large collection of physical music.  There are about 7,000 LPs, 12-inchers and 7-inchers in the basement and close to 10,000 CDs here in the office.  I own all of them free and clear, so I may do whatever I wish with them.

I have a buddy with a similarly large collection and like me, he has no kids.  We’ve worked it out so that whoever goes first gets the other guy’s music collection.  The terms of this arrangment are formally spelled out in each of our wills.  The clauses even spell out things like transportation and storage.  We were very careful.

But an article in yesterday’s Toronto Star makes me think we may need to rethink our arrangement. What happens to all my digital music when I join the choir invisible?

I’m not talking about the stuff I ripped from physical sources.  I mean the digital tracks that I purchased from iTunes and other sources.  

Granted, most of this material is downloaded locally and backed up to multiple hard drives both on and off site.  Transferring their physical location–and their ownership–should be a simple as dragging the library into a sufficiently large hard drive.  In my case, that’s 42,953 songs.

But what about material that’s still DRMed?  Or songs that are stored in the cloud?   Or songs I may have discovered through services like Slacker and Rdio?  Even in the case of  iTunes, where my account is locked to my email address and my credit card, it gets pretty inelegant very quickly.  

Read about the pitfalls and problems of this peculiar sitaution, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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 “Who Gets My Music When I Die?

  • April 16, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Who gets the collections when you both die?

  • April 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    [copied/pasted from my original comments on Facebook]

    Interesting topic. There is definitely a sadness in the loss of "physical music". Your introduction, and the Star article you link to, got me thinking along a bit of a tangent. What of the value of our physical music collections?

    When i worked in record stores in the early/mid-90s, people would come in with their lists of stolen CDs and a purchase order from their insurance companies. Back then, thieves would actually steal CDs, and insurance companies would actually replace them (painfully, title by title) at full retail value. I don't know what happens now when someone claims the loss of their CDs, but i'm guessing nobody would even believe that burglars broke into your house and took the time and effort to cart away dozens or hundreds of compact discs!

    Let's face it. The CD has no value. My collection isn't nearly as large as yours, Alan, but it's probably around 3,000 … and i can't remember the last time i bought a new CD (except for a few here and there at merch tables after a show); the vast majority of acquisitions in the past decade have been picked up from pawn shops, usually for $3 or less, and even at that, probably only a matter of a few dozen in the last half dozen years.

    Does it even mean anything to will a physical music collection to someone anymore? Sure, in your case, you have a fellow fan who will appreciate your collection — on its own merits, and as a representation of who you were. But for many of us, our survivors may just see our collections as a heavy assortment of plastic cases, hardly worth the effort of transporting, sorting, importing to a hard drive, and/or selling.

    My CDs used to occupy 8 feet of wall space in my living room … but 99% of my listening has long been through my iTunes collection, including the hundreds of discs i've imported. Now, with two thirds of those discs relegated to an awkward corner of a hallway upstairs, i'm struggling with the value of keeping the remaining third in the living room. I love my CDs, i'll always want more, and i'll never give them away … but how can i justify the expense of money and the expanse of wall space?

    I suffer. But, i suppose, that is the collector's lot in life…


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