A Decade of Music Is Lost on Your iPod. These Are The Deleted Years.
September 8, 2019 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Now Let Us Praise Them. From 2003 to 2012, music was disposable and nothing survived.

“From the late 1990s until whenever we stopped burning things onto compact discs, I gave my friends, family, and colleagues a year-end best-of mix as my Christmas card. I kept it to my favorite 20 songs of the year, the final track listings subject to last-minute switches, bold additions, and sequence changes that were controversial to only myself. During a recent decluttering of my office, I found a whole bunch of them, from 2003 to 2009, and as I popped each one open and looked at the seven years of soundtracks I fretted over for seven solid Decembers, I was faced with one important question: What the hell are most of these songs?” Spotify playlist of Deleted Years classics.
posted by holborne (116 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Fixed link! ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:40 AM on September 8


Thank yew! 😊
posted by holborne at 7:44 AM on September 8


Ha, finally my digital hoarder tendencies have a payoff!

I had my first unrecoverable hard drive failure as a college sophomore back in 2000. I probably didn't lose anything that couldn't or wasn't replaced, but what irked me most was that I didn't know.

So from that point forward, every MP3, every PDF, every recording of a Launch.com RealAudio (remember those?) or FLV file (from back when that was the default YouTube download) got saved somewhere, first to CD-Rs, then thumb drives and external hard drives.

Disc rot may claim them before I have a chance to fully re-copy and catalog them, but if so then it will be my fault.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:53 AM on September 8 [11 favorites]


I mean, that's Muse, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Regina Spektor and pretty much all of the Emo bubble, either debuting in the era or coming into their fame in it, so I'm not entirely 100% behind the police work here.

That Click Five single is pretty sweet though
posted by jscalzi at 7:59 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


This is nice article, but in the UK at least almost all of the "missing" stuff is available in large quantities and at low, low prices in a charity shop near you.

And I'm with The Pluto Gangsta in backing it all up. Last year I found my first backup drive (8GB!), fired it up and, despite it making the most horrible sound imaginable, it worked. I backed it up and put it away, very carefully.
posted by YoungStencil at 8:03 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


This is a fun premise, but I'm a little unsure about how well the playlist backs it up. I stopped following music and going to shows in '05, so I can't judge the article well, but I do recognize names on the playlist.

Both Wheat and Grandaddy had 'breakthroughs' of a sort between 1999 and 2001 - Wheat had Hope and Adams, Grandaddy had the Sophtware Slump, and I actually owned both on CD (although I really only listened to Wheat).

Silverchair famously had hits in the US in the mid-90s when they were a grungealike band, and the singer/main songwriter has been making solo records this decade.

The Pipettes may fit with the idea that their memory has been deleted, but they were designed to be disposable from the jump! They were always going to be deleted.
posted by suckerpunch at 8:09 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I've been noticing a lot of "songs you forgot" playlists around; this is just a hyperspecific "songs I forgot." It doesn't match up with me, personally, in large part because "Holidae Inn" was a mooonnster hit at my high school and will never be dislodged from my brain.

It does make me think of how much time I've wasted trying to get the songs I want played when I want them. First iTunes CD rips (rate songs to only play the ones I really liked, then set the "start playing track" time very carefully to avoid annoying intros), then iTunes singles (RIP, because I haven't used Apple Music in years), then curating Pandora with thumbs up and thumbs down, then Spotify (when I was sick of the Pandora conceit), then Google Music (when I could be on someone else's plan for free), now...whatever I'll be switching to now that Google is very obviously winding down Google Music.

Uh. I've been thinking a lot lately about how radio wasn't really that bad.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:19 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


^F dubstep

No? Maybe it was only big in the alternate timeline I came from.
posted by sfenders at 8:25 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


Was it MP3.com that had all those self-released bands? And you could order a disc (basically a CD-R with no label) or just download things? Electrostatuc. Splashdown. Persephone's Bees.

I think I have a bunch of those in the storage room.
posted by crush at 8:44 AM on September 8 [6 favorites]


I still have all my CDs! Some of them are 25 years old. I’m afraid to find out if they still play.
posted by Automocar at 8:46 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


All your .mp3 are belong to us.
posted by Fizz at 8:50 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


the part I'm not grasping is why 2013 makes a difference beyond it being when Billboard reconsidered its methodology. Seriously? This is a serious discussion of so called popular music where sales figures are seen to be the key factor. Sales haven't reflected my idea of "good" pop music since at least 1966. Seriously, check out the Billboard pop charts for 1966 sometime if you're bored. There are some weird entries (as always), but overall, You Will Smile, something was very right back then in the wonderful world of unit-shifting pop.

One factor I would consider when discussing 2003-2012 is what I call the fifteen year rule. Simply put, we don't really know shit about what has staying power until at least fifteen years after it's made it's initial impact. That is, a fresh record hits. It either hooks us in The Now or it doesn't, and then, inevitably, the freshness passes and it sort of fades into a moribund zone long enough for us (the culture) to pretty much completely forget about it, or certainly view it with any objectivity. Until after fifteen years, it's ready to be reconsidered with as much objectivity as taste can ever have, and marveled at (or not) for how it speaks to the ages. Anyway, the heart of the period in question here is still mostly stuck in that moribund zone, so I would argue that nobody knows anything past about 2004.

And what was happening in 2004 that perhaps still matters? I think this chart is fairly reflective once you remove the reissues etc.

Seriously.
posted by philip-random at 8:50 AM on September 8 [10 favorites]


I still have all my CDs! Some of them are 25 years old. I’m afraid to find out if they still play.

I have CDs dating back to the 80s. Most of them still play just fine. They're a fine storage medium, especially if they are manufactured and not burned.

I continue to buy CDs and vinyl, and am happy to have a digital music library also. Anything I want to truly have as "mine" I buy on physical media. I play music out of my own library, and rarely stream. (Although I do love YouTube for finding music.)

The thing I'm discovering with a lot of the Youngs is, they don't even know how to play a CD let alone own a CD player.

So peculiar, to live in a world where the things you love might be taken away at any moment due to corporate whims or market forces.

Physical media protects me from that. Maybe someday the kiddos will learn that, too.
posted by hippybear at 8:56 AM on September 8 [17 favorites]


I think it's the CD-RWs that are going to have a short life. I don't know how long the commercial CDs will last, but, longer.
posted by thelonius at 9:00 AM on September 8


This article makes absolutely no sense but skillet got paid and so good on ya, dude.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:02 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I have CDs dating back to the 80s. Most of them still play just fine. They're a fine storage medium, especially if they are manufactured and not burned.

Oh, that’s good to know. I still have all the mp3s I ripped of them, too, but I’ve always wanted to go back and rerip them in a better format. It doesn’t seem worth the work, though.

Of greater concern is all the mixtapes friends made me back in the ‘90s. They still play, but I should really get on digitizing them.
posted by Automocar at 9:02 AM on September 8


I’ve always wanted to go back and rerip them in a better format. It doesn’t seem worth the work, though.

If you spend time sitting in front of your computer doing other things for any length of time, you can simply take that stack of CDs and start the ripping process to whatever format you desire and make that a part of the ritual while you sit in front of your computer while you're already there anyway.

I've done this twice, and the last time was the final time, but it's really no bother unless you have CDs that require a lot of tag input for the tracks because they can't be looked up easily online which most CDs can be these days.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Is there a version of this list which does not require a Spotify account to view?
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:07 AM on September 8 [8 favorites]


I've read the article and I'm still not sure what is meant by "the deleted years".

I have an experience of that period (Edit: slightly later, though including music from that period) which can very much be called "the deleted years". I subscribed to Spotify and after a few years unsubscribed because my playlists got shorter and shorter, presumably due to copyright negotiation issues. One of my favourite albums of the era ended up with roughly half of the tracks missing, such a clusterfuck copyright is.

The article literally includes a Spotify playlist. What the heck is even meant by "deleted" here?
posted by swr at 9:09 AM on September 8 [8 favorites]


hey am i too late for the electroclash party, or
posted by sugar and confetti at 9:13 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


One of the great things about being a Deadhead is that not only do I still have 100s of tapes, 100s of CDs, but pretty much every show they ever played is up on Archive.org. No deleted years. Just fire up the relisten app and good to go. If anything, the "deleted" years would be when Jerry was in rehab or sounded like he should be in rehab.
posted by AugustWest at 9:15 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Is there a version of this list which does not require a Spotify account to view?

I’m happy to make an Apple Music list including all the songs on the list, but I’m not sure that will help very much.
posted by holborne at 9:15 AM on September 8


Unrelated: in 2004, I think, I played a show with Tapes'n'Tapes at the Make Out Room in San Francisco. They were a weird, experimental band at the time. One of their songs was an SK-1 drum machine sing/rap dittie called Sweet 'N Low. It was very much to my surprise that I saw them on the lineup for the first Pitchfork Festival, and then in that Aziz Ansari video. You never know what will become of the people you meet!

That said, I don't think the failure of many of the artists in the article to stand the test of time is attributable solely or even primarily to a dearth of archival formats. Most acts don't have that many great songs in them, let alone albums.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:19 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


This is one of the reasons I buy my music on CD whenever that's possible. (I also like the look of a shelf full of CDs; it gives the wall a splash of colour. But I digress.)

In the mid 90s when computers and hard disks got fast and cheap enough, I ripped my whole collection to mp3 and that became my primary music listening process. Every new disc would get ripped, go on the shelf and never get played again. When I started a new job, I'd bring a USB drive with my music on it, and this is mostly still how it works. The entire collection fits on a 128GB flash drive now. I also have a home NAS that will stream any song to my phone.

But a couple of years back, I realized that storage is now cheap enough for me to switch to flac. (I have a tin ear with respect to audio encoding artifacts but having a lossless master keeps those from adding up when transcoding.) So I re-ripped everything and of my several hundred CDs, I think two had developed problems and another two were already in pretty bad shape. And even then, I was able to rip all but one one of them with cdparanoia and a lot of time.

(The one that was too far gone actually let me rip the first half. So I tried a torrent site and found an ancient torrent that also downloaded part of the album and then stalled. So I made another attempt at ripping the CD, got a couple of extra songs out of it and eventually discovered that enough of the torrented album was there to make up the rest of the album.)
posted by suetanvil at 9:19 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


I expect part of this is because I only ever used iTunes by accident, but the article doesn't line up with my experience at all. Probably most of the music I listen to is from this era, in part because that's when The Current started, and before then I was pretty starved for ways to find new music. There's a lot on that playlist I don't recognize, but given where my musical tastes were then and are now I can say pretty certainty I wouldn't have recognized them at the time, either.

Ironically, he seems to consider this era deleted because he has a record of what he was actually listening to in a way that he doesn't for earlier, and he doesn't have the same distance from the newer stuff.
posted by ckape at 9:21 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I can relate to this.
I had an ipod purchased around 2005 and from around 1998 onward a huge fraction of my music was acquired via torrent. Most of the music I listened during the 2000s was a file I had downloaded from somewhere.
When my ipod bit the dust and amazon started enabling users to upload their collections (and own the mp3s purchased on Amazon music) I switched from itunes, triggering my first loss of purchased material, as well as ditching most of the music that didn't make the cut or never got around to upload to amazon. Then when I finally moved to spotify from Amazon I never looked back and although all my Amazon music is still there I never access it. For all intents and purposes the music I listened to the most during those years is 'lost' to me, if not in the material sense then at least in the cognitive sense.
Our digital lives are ephemeral- digital assets much more easily misplaced and forgotten. In contrast I still possess nearly every CD I ever purchased, although they are hidden in a tote in my crawlspace. Their mere presence in my home, though, seems to give them more cognitive weight than things left lying around in online services and hard disks.
posted by simra at 9:22 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Is there a version of this list which does not require a Spotify account to view?

I don't have spotify either but for some reason I can see the list just fine (click to expand):
Blue Merle - Burning In The Sun
The Pipettes - Pull Shapes
Angels & Airwaves - The Adventure
Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
Lupe Fiasco - Kick, Push
The Feeling - Sewn
Alexi Murdoch - All My Days
Silverchair - Straight Lines
John Mayer - Bigger Than My Body
Jason Fox, Hood Presidents - Aunt Jackie
Razorlight - America
Nizlopi - JCB
Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter
Paolo Nutini - New Shoes
The Magic Numbers - Forever Lost
The Thrills - Big Sur
Longwave - TIdal Waves
Rogue Wave - Publish My Love
The Long Winters - Cinnamon
Grandaddy - Now It's On
Creeper Lagoon - Up All Night
Wheat - These Are Things
Chingy, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg - Holidae In
Remy Shand - Take a Message
Anthony Hamilton - Lucille
The Click Five - Just the Girl

posted by ckape at 9:33 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


There's a generational effect here too. I started college during his "deleted years". I'm a little older now than he was at the time. Am I going to have good memory of what new music I'm listening to now in 15 years? Probably not. Am I going to remember what music I was listening to in college still? I imagine so.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:42 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


It won't sound right unless it's encoded at 128 kbit using the burbly old Xing encoder like all my eMusic purchases were
posted by scruss at 9:43 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


If I were going to add to that list:
Midlake - Roscoe
some Iron & Wine.
The Futureheads cover of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love.
something from Sigur Ros's 2008 Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

There was a site called criticalmetrics that had a really excellent streaming playlist curated based on reviews on pitchfork, spin, etc. I discovered most of the new music I listened to at the time through them. Then they switched to youtube playlists and I couldn't stream it at work anymore...
posted by simra at 9:44 AM on September 8 [4 favorites]


Looking back at the list and timeline, it would also have swallowed Freak Folk: your Devendra Banhart, your CocoRosie and Akron/Family too. You probably had a playlist on your first-gen iPod Mini called “Straight Outta Williamsburg”.
posted by scruss at 9:58 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


This is 5,000 words and the central thesis is “my relationship to music has changed.” This is super generational. Having gone to college, then lived for three years in Chicago when pitchfork music fest and bonnaroo were becoming institutions during that time period I’d say 2004-2013 is the era of music I remember the best (maybe tied with 92-95 grunge explosion that still dominated radio when I was in middle school). I don’t have any CDs or mp3s files for any era*because I why bother? Spotify more than meets my needs.

Also I’m going to go listen to tapes and tapes... and then maybe Fiery Furnaces...

*Ok that’s a lie, I found a Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and a CDR burned copy of Hail to the Theif when I moved last and I didn’t have the heart to throw them out.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:58 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I still have all my CDs! Some of them are 25 years old. I’m afraid to find out if they still play.

Me too, along with all my records and cassettes. They're all out in the garage with about 80 boxes of books.
posted by octothorpe at 10:15 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


The Pipettes may fit with the idea that their memory has been deleted, but they were designed to be disposable from the jump! They were always going to be deleted.

Not to mention that former Pipette Gwenno Saunders had one of the most critically-acclaimed—and, imo, best—albums of 2018 with Le Kov.
posted by capricorn at 10:15 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


For me, these so-called Deleted Years are marked by the rise and fall of the mash-up as a major element of my musical rotation, which have proved over time to be perhaps the most disposable (and disposed of) form of modern music. After discovering The Ghost That Feeds (2005), I pretty rapidly got sucked into compilations like The Best of Bootie, elaborate mix projects like Team9's annual collaborations with Stereogum entitled MySplice (2006-2009), and concept albums like The Kleptones' 24 Hours (2006) and Dean Gray's The American Edit (2006). A lot of these projects were sufficiently high profile that the tracks remain accessible in one form or another, but others disappeared into obscurity as hosting costs presumably piled up and drove the files offline. Some creators have since re-uploaded their work from this period to Soundcloud or other hosting services, but the dubious legality of many of the tracks, as well as (if we are honest) their dubious quality has resulted in vast swathes of music of which almost no trace remains.

For example, in 2008, just as mashups peaked and began to recede into the realm of niche interest, some website somewhere (no idea, now, who it was) ran a "crate-diver challenge," the aim of which was to (a) purchase used vinyl records, (b) extract samples exclusively from those records, and (c) build an EP that was at least 6 tracks long (each track being at least 2 minutes long), in a week. Splicing together artistically interesting tracks from scratch on that sort of time-table is a tall order, and perhaps unsurprisingly, most people who took a stab at it couldn't meet the deadline, and those who limped across the finish line were largely pretty bad. But the winning album, D-Form's Up or Down (2008), was actually a pretty compelling bit of acoustic hip-hop. Nothing groundbreaking, but pretty impressive as a week of work from scratch. However, if you were to ask me to prove that any of this happened as described, I'd be hard-pressed. Evidence that the album was ever even made just barely exists, albeit with a track missing and none of them apparently playable. Furthermore, I can find no trace of the contest, or the creator's description of his creative process selecting albums and extracting samples. If it weren't for the humble half-dozen mp3s I still have to this day, I wouldn't be confident that I hadn't just made the whole thing up.
posted by belarius at 10:15 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


What am I missing? If I launch iTunes I can download everything I ever bought. What’s the big deal? Now all that stuff I downloaded under legally dubious circumstances is long gone, but the legit stuff persists. What gives?
posted by hilberseimer at 10:17 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


2008-2013 is what I consider my underground music phase where I mostly relied on illegal music blogs (that utilized the now defunct mediafire and megaupload file sharing sites to circumvent torrent crackdowns) to explore and hone my taste at the time. This is where I discovered a lot of very innovative people that went on to become big: Wild Nothing, Oneohtrix Point Never, Tycho, etc etc. This is also when I was in grad school and living off of student loans, so I had time to be a digital hoarder. I consider this some of the most interesting times in indie music, personally, but that may just be because I was younger, had the time to invest and my emotional landscape was much different.
posted by Young Kullervo at 10:20 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I was a huge fan of the Fifth Dimension. Marilyn McCoo has the best pipes of any vocal artist I've ever heard. She is amazing! But every time I listen to her, I'm troubled. So much emotional labor in her songs for men that disregard her! I can't delete her, because I love her velvet voice.

I have every platter and disc of her. But, over the years, I've felt sad. Do you really need a guy to give you relevance?
posted by SPrintF at 10:27 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't really have any "deleted years" because I've always kept my music backed up, even back when that was extremely annoying to do. It's only in the last few years that I'm able to afford a laptop with enough storage to keep all of my music on it.

I do sometimes feel nostalgic for things I've deliberately deleted though. There was this Swedish band .... deleted when I decided I just wasn't into them enough to keep the low-quality tracks I had. Or some of the CDs I never ripped...

It doesn't really matter the format, the real disposable music is the music you haven't backed up.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:29 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


This is like, everything I listened to freshman year of college. I really miss The Pipettes.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 10:40 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I, too, still have all my CDs. By the time it became clear that they were basically obsolete, it was too late to sell them for any meaningful amount of money. So I have maybe 10 moving boxes full of them in storage. I pulled some out for my teenage son recently and they all work fine - and the audio fidelity is instantly recognizably way higher than the versions of that same music we are used to hearing now.
posted by The World Famous at 10:42 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I suspect digital loss is not substantially different from the same loss people experienced with respect to music before digital media existed. Plenty of people pre-Y2k would graduate from high school or college and simply jettison their entire music collection (save perhaps a dozen CDs) when they moved to a new city or experienced some other life change. You go through different stages of your life, and big pieces of it calve off and float away. This writer experienced music through the medium of digital files, but there doesn't really seem to be anything intrinsic to the medium that explains the "loss" he is describing. Nor does the experience even require any physical artifact to occur... we experience loss in the mind as time passes and the constituent parts of some older now splinter and fade away, whether or not we hang on to the referent stuff.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:43 AM on September 8 [7 favorites]


I've been rebuilding my eighties-era music library by hitting up thrift stores (I had a lot of mixtapes that got thrown out after several moves). The CD Shelves? Mostly Nineties era stuff. You can see the cut off around the turn of the millennium, right about when people were switching to iPods. Later music thins out dramatically.
posted by Eikonaut at 10:47 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


And what was happening in 2004 that perhaps still matters?

Fifteen years on—there was a great month when MTV seemed to just play the “All Falls Down,” “Toxic,” and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” videos over and over. There was no mystery when College Dropout came out about whether it would stand the test of time, it was so sensational. The other big powerhouse I remember from that era was the soundtrack to Garden State, which is a fairly good time capsule now.
posted by sallybrown at 10:53 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I’m sorry the author’s digital housekeeping & back up routines were so poor, but that is really the crux of their problem.

I started ripping CD’s & downloading files, through iTunes, or from friends iPods or wherever in about 2001, & I still have everything- something like 35,000 songs. Hard drives have gotten bigger at a much faster rate than my ability to collect music.

I had a few difficulties when Apple switched from protected files to regular AAC files, but eventually got them sorted.

A few of them are missing tags & might just be Song_Artist in the title, but I haven’t had much trouble keeping things tagged, & Shazam has worked for me 99% of the time when I didn’t know what something was - mostly mix CD’s that were given to me.

I do still buy CD’s on occasion (I love the used bin at Half Price books) & I do still download purchases from the iTunes Store, & yes (Old Man Alert) I even still have an iPod. I love it.

This music they’re talking about isn’t lost - it’s just lost to the author. All that stuff is still out there on CD or one of the downloading services, even though it might technically be out of print. Tracking down out of print music was WAY harder pre-internet than it is today, thanks to eBay, discogs, or wherever.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:54 AM on September 8 [10 favorites]


On even further reflection, I find it really odd this article doesn’t even mention Kanye...?
posted by sallybrown at 10:56 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


What I find weird is that he's making that article about 2003-2012 and not about the present day, when he's listening only to streaming and publishing his best-of lists as tweets.
posted by ckape at 11:01 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


This is a weird article for me because it is simultaneously not true at all for me and also more true than the author intended. I bought everything on CD for the entire period the author calls "the deleted years"; I can go back and see pretty much every album I listened to in that decade entombed in plastic. I have database backups and probably archive.org entries that could tell me about every random song I wrote about in my mp3 blog from 2004 to 2008. I still have all the mp3s I downloaded going back to 1998. So I don't have a memory hole for these years in theory.

But the weird thing is, I've still somehow forgotten about most of the albums I own from that period. I'm in the middle of ripping albums I bought in 2008 to FLAC, as part of a hilariously long, occasional project to re-rip everything I own to lossless. Do you remember Nicole Atkins? I didn't until just now, and I'm not sure I want to listen to that album again despite loving it a decade ago. (On a whim I listened to a track from her latest album and it seems pretty cool, so this probably more reflects on me than her.)

Strangely, one of the few bands I'd still stan for, and have never really forgotten? The Pipettes.

Not to mention that former Pipette Gwenno Saunders had one of the most critically-acclaimed—and, imo, best—albums of 2018 with Le Kov.


Like, can we talk about Gwenno and Rose Elinor Dougall being two unlikely inheritors of the psych-pop legacy Broadcast left us? Hell, even Rebecca had a decent post-Pipettes project that unfortunately only managed a single EP. The Pipettes we're responsible for more great music than people know.
posted by chrominance at 11:04 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I’ll stop my Kanye blathering after this, but if we’re talking 2003-2012, you could make a strong argument he was the single most influential popular artist in that period. Instead of being forgotten, these five albums shaped a lot of music that’s still coming out now:

The College Dropout (2004)
Late Registration (2005)
Graduation (2007)
808s & Heartbreak (2008)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

(This category also known as “the Kanye albums I actually like.”)
posted by sallybrown at 11:05 AM on September 8 [8 favorites]


I’ve posted mp3’s at so many places that are just...gone now, songs I don’t remember how to play, or have forgotten. Music is ephemeral, there’s always an erase happening as the small moments fade into history. All of Life is a permanent state of Rutger Hauer’s speech at the end of blade runner, music cannot escape it either.

Mostly I’m just sad cause there’s a lot of cool music I poured a lot of myself into creating and like maybe 3 people on the planet give a fuck about it and it’s all fading into meaningless and well, shit. Post internet Modernity is just accelerating the trend of forgetting what matters and remembering and holding grudges about learning and growth missteps and mistakes we’ve made along the way that everyone should probably just forgive. Anyway fuck I’m in a bad mood I probably need to cry in the shower with a Miller lite and write another fucking song about whatever all this is about.
posted by nikaspark at 11:11 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


It's barely mentioned in the story, but for those who are confused by the premise, the author is talking about an artifact of buying music from iTunes and putting it on your iPod during the 2003-2009 era rather than what was going on in media in general. There's two reasons it was so hard to keep music bought on iTunes into the future:

1) The iPod was like a roach motel. You could put music on it, but you couldn't download your music back from it. If you only had a song you had bought on your iPod, and that iPod is lost to the sands of time, the music you bought is now done for.

2) Music bought from iTunes came with DRM that allowed you to make a backup... on CDR. No re-downloads! So, if you wanted an MP3 and a backup of something you bought on iTunes, you could do it, but you had to burn a CDR then re-rip it as MP3, a giant pain. Yes, you could also back up the Protected AAC files iTunes gave you, but everything had to be played back on an iTunes-authorized player, of which you could have only a handful of.

So, if you were bought in to the iTunes infrastructure, it was a legitimate pain to keep backups of your music for the future, and backup regimens were well outside of the kinds of things less technically-minded people were doing. It's easy to forget how draconian and awful Apple's DRM policies were a decade ago.

Of course, if you bought CDs during that period and ripped them to MP3 like... lots of people did, there's a decent chance you might still have both the CD on a shelf or in a box as well as the MP3 on a hard drive somewhere, totally invalidating the premise of the article.

I do need to say that Pull Shapes by the Pipettes is timeless. I still occasionally have it pop up as an earworm completely unprovoked.
posted by eschatfische at 11:14 AM on September 8 [15 favorites]


This music they’re talking about isn’t lost - it’s just lost to the author. All that stuff is still out there on CD or one of the downloading services, even though it might technically be out of print. Tracking down out of print music was WAY harder pre-internet than it is today, thanks to eBay, discogs, or wherever.

+1. Unless we're talking about music that was only available on MySpace between 2003-2015 (see previous), said music is still out there somewhere in some format.

(Fellow CD buyer here as well. Aside from those that had manufacturing issues that led to disc rot (e.g. certain Skullflower releases) they've managed to hold up. CD-Rs are a mixed bag though).
posted by gtrwolf at 11:19 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Man, I must be old because I still buy CD’s and then rip them. I don’t have any streaming services, maybe due to their lack of wax cylinders and 78’s or just because I can’t see why I’d pay for one when I can just buy stuff from groups I like. Mostly I think I’m just old. I also don’t get the idea of “deleted”, I still have everything from that era. Who puts something on an iPod without a backup?
Get offa my lawn!
posted by misterpatrick at 11:22 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


The Pippettes are unironically awesome. I will fight anybody who disagrees.
posted by signal at 11:29 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


You could put music on it, but you couldn't download your music back from it.

Sentui & PodWorks were/are cheap, easy ways to get music off an iPod & onto a computer -arguably easier than retrieving it off a phone, though there’s programs for that, too. My copy of PodWorks still functions under High Sierra.

One of the most fun evenings I had at a Lifeboat meetup was when we all whipped out our laptops & passed around iPods & used PodWorks to grab things from each other’s collections. I still have about 1000 files from that evening.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:47 AM on September 8


I think all of this entire discussion can be summed up wisely by the unfortunately problematic Milan Kundera: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” and I personally would prefer more durable storage media, and lesson fucking learned for sure. The digital age is a rat race against bitrot and I’m wanting of a media marketplace with a memory that is a little less reliant on digital transmission and storage.
posted by nikaspark at 11:50 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I don’t use streaming services because they are literally killing music. A $25.00 quarterly royalty check is really just a slap in the face. Less music will be made because we’re all out here working day jobs now.

Still, despite not paying for their product, Spotify is losing money hand over fist for whatever reason. I just hope their burn rate kills them off before they destroy the music industry completely.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:52 AM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Feeling smug because all my music from this period is in a carefully curated collection of DRM-free MP3 and AAC files. I never once bought anything off iTunes precisely because I didn't trust I'd really own the music. I bought DRM free from Amazon instead, and Bleep. And I ripped my own CDs. And I downloaded some from unlicensed sources.

It's Spotify that's going to mark the era of deleted music. At some point some of that music is going to go offline. Or all of it, if Spotify goes broke. And it's much more work to make your own backup of what you listen to on Spotify. We're already seeing this with Netflix; a whole lot of video that used to be cheap and easy to watch online is now much harder to get at.
posted by Nelson at 12:42 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


It’s all loss of control for the price of convenience. I can access “everything” for a flat fee each month, but I have no rights to listen to that music in any way I choose - it could go away tomorrow, and I have no recourse.

My music collection was burned in the heyday of the early 00s, and I still have all those MP3s. Are they lost? No. Do I listen to them often? Also no.

I do wish the author had framed things slightly differently, but then, it’d be a different article.
posted by hijinx at 12:54 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I lost a bunch of digital music around 2003, but not from hardware failure... someone stole my MP3 CD player and a bunch of CD-Rs of MP3s (as well as some actual legal CDs) out of my parents rental car while we were at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

It took me close to a decade to recover all the stuff that was on those discs, though the stuff I had trouble tracking down again were mostly B-sides from a somewhat obscure rock band to begin with.
posted by SansPoint at 12:54 PM on September 8


The music that I have trapped that has been making me crazy for over a decade is way back in the dark ages, I bought a Nomad Jukebox. A mammoth mp3 player for its time, it came out before the iPod (if I recall) and it came preloaded with a bunch of music and some of the preloaded music was downright great. But it's trapped on that single device with no way for me to move it into a more useful location. I still have the device, it still works, but I'd rather have those files in my iTunes so I can listen to them without them being bound to that device.
posted by hippybear at 1:02 PM on September 8


I am so happy that this tread has become an accidental Pipettes Fan Club experience. They and Edith Frost are two early 2000s acts I wish had gone longer than they did.
posted by q*ben at 1:05 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


While reading the comments for this post, I just keep hearing, "This is a public service announcement... with guitar!"
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:19 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


I worked in a record shop from 2002 to 2016. My experience of the period was quite a bit different than that of it's author. And I have the record collection to show for it.

I will say that whole post-Strokes/Interpol era produced way more retro post-punk/new wave bands (someone upthread mentioned Futureheads) than were strictly necessary and I actually like that kind of thing. I feel like there was a solid period of time when Domino Records was running almost entirely on "Bands that Sound A Little Like Psychedelic Furs" which was around the same time when there were a whole lot of bands on US Indie labels that sounded a whole lot like The Shins. I preferred the former (remember Clearlake?), probably because the latter became synonymous with whatever they were playing.

Incidentally, I also quibble with Grandaddy's placement on that list. I had my own (like, totally overrated) argument with Jason Lytle et. al. back in the day, but they were really a product of a slightly earlier era. Anecdotally, we sold a shitload of copies of Sumday, which wasn't very good, and every various reissue of The Sophtware Slump(which was pretty good, if you were into nerdy khaki short psych-tinged indie rock). At least one of those reissues, fyi, still moves for a fair bit of $$ on Discogs.
posted by thivaia at 1:19 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I don' think the era that author is describing is exactly correct, but I get the concept. I built my own digital music player in 2009, and I can see that I have songs that I have not played since 2009. I liked them well enough to buy a CD, or digital version, and rip, but apparently not enough to listen to them in 9 years. It's kind of a weird thought.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:20 PM on September 8


And here I am still using last.fm to track my music habits. There was a brief moment in time where it seemed like everyone used it, but I don't know anyone else that has stuck with it over the years. I have 15 years of music listening habits that I find are often fuck to look through. I've appreciated being able to recover my favourites/thumbs up from the service as well. More than a few times I've had to rebuild playlists from scratch after something went sideways and it was great to have them backed up somewhere.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 1:23 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


This article annoyed me more than is rational because

whoever was unlucky enough to be 13 in the mid-aughts has only a LaCie hard drive filled with mislabeled Limewire files to turn to.

The Napster->Megaupload blogs->private trackers era was a fantastic era in which to discover music, and possibly a fairly unique one in history (though none of that stuff is really gone). If you ("you," haha) were 13 in 2002, you were 15 when OiNK started and 18 for WCD? It was pretty great, man, sorry you missed it.

(I will admit I probably lost a fair amount of stuff when one particular hard drive died but I've also lost or broken probably a third of the CDs I've bought in my life I mean okay a cracked case will show up floating in an old backpack sometimes and maybe it will still work so you know)
posted by atoxyl at 1:27 PM on September 8 [6 favorites]


As someone who has spent enormous quantities of dollars on music since the early ‘80s, and still have many tens (dozens?) of thousands of songs ripped, I thought the article rang pretty true (setting aside the writer’s many attempts to make it hip and glib). That was a very weird time to be listening to, and sort of preserving, the music I wanted to make sure I preserved. Got to give it up for !!!, who have continued to refine an amazingly great and relatively unique sound for many years.
posted by saintjoe at 1:38 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Still, despite not paying for their product, Spotify is losing money hand over fist for whatever reason. I just hope their burn rate kills them off before they destroy the music industry completely.

Blame the labels-slash-rightsholders. Spotify takes in 8-ish billiion per year, the labels get a little over half of that, and keep 50-70% of that, which is the pool of what could go to the artists.

The labels have always been screwing the streaming services because their entire business model is based on controlling distribution and being able to create scarcity when necessary. Ever seen a "Download this song, today only!" promotion? Silly isn't it? That's 1970s music thinking still hanging around as label heads.

10-15 years ago when this compensation structure was being hammered out, I wished the streaming services told the rightsholders to pound sand. "Have Neil Young make you a website, then." But...the allure of not completely rebooting the industry and kicking the dinosaurs back to broadcast radio was too strong. Bandcamp is great, but I fear the moment has passed.
posted by rhizome at 1:39 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


“Have Neil Young make you a website, then."

RIP Pono
posted by sallybrown at 1:52 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


My acerbic attitude about Spotify should in no be way construed as a defense of the major labels, who have also been screwing artists since forever.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:19 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Right, but in this context it makes a big difference whether you think of Spotify as a proxy for the performers' interests, or a cudgel of the labels.
posted by rhizome at 2:22 PM on September 8


Bloodsuckers, the lot of them.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:36 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I think most people think of Spotify as their own personal music collection they can access online and don't really think much at all about where that music comes from or who is getting paid what for someone to have the privilege of accessing it.
posted by hippybear at 2:36 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


Bloodsuckers, the lot of them.

sort of like when Hitler and Stalin allied for a while to help themselves to Poland. I suppose we could now hope that Spotify recklessly invades the Major Labels sometime soon and they eventually find their own personal Stalingrad wherein they annihilate each other for a while ... he said stretching a sloppy analogy way too far.
posted by philip-random at 2:51 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


I’m sorry, at what point in the last 70 years have I been able to feel good about listening to music? Other than my local vegan punk shows and maybe K records for a little bit
posted by q*ben at 3:04 PM on September 8 [4 favorites]


sort of like when Hitler and Stalin allied for a while to help themselves to Poland

Spotify is Poland here, SoundExchange and the labels are Hitler and Stalin. I won't take the analogy further.
posted by rhizome at 3:40 PM on September 8


I’ve always wanted to go back and rerip them in a better format. It doesn’t seem worth the work, though.

Late to the party on that but you could, at least for a while, use iTunes Match to upgrade your old and poorly encoded personal media with fresh and clean store-ready media. There were even smart playlists that automated the good upgrades. You'd let the service sync, find the songs that were upgrade targets, then delete them locally and download the new media from the store. I mean, Apple isn't keeping a few thousand different copies of the Spice Girls' Wannabe, once they identify it and it's matched, your local copy is only local until you delete it, then you get an official release.

Mind you, I kept a copy of my old library on a backup drive for the longest time to make sure I didn't get any cross-matched songs and there's reason to be paranoid about explicit vs radio releases, but... It's a thing that might be worth the $25 for a year.
posted by Kyol at 3:41 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


the audio fidelity is instantly recognizably way higher than the versions of that same music we are used to hearing now.

I was really struck by this the other day - even streamed to a bluetooth receiver my 1:1 CD copies sound immensely better than mp3s or Spotify. Lossy compression is fine with some stuff, but drives me nuts on well-recorded, complex material.

Ripping a WAV or FLAC used to take too much disk space to be viable storage-wise, but at least some of my jazz and weird stuff is getting a second pass soon.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:10 PM on September 8


This article's premise has averted this 34 year old. I've made top 50 albums of the year lists since 2001. Still, the article has a point. Our migration to digital lives has made practically all of western culture of the last twenty years more susceptible to being lost forever than thhe culture of two hundred years ago.
posted by theartandsound at 4:18 PM on September 8


ProTools & Logic will spit out printed sheet music. Artists could go back to the original publishing method.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:40 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Echoing everyone above that this article is a weird premise, anything marketed and produced through a legitimate label is never going to be "deleted" or "lost" to history or even moderately organized and tech savvy affectionatos. What's in danger of getting lost is bootlegs, live shows, your friend's band who never got signed but should have and you have their self-produced EP to prove it. Truly unique and niche content, not "I lost my laptop that had 20gb of torrents on it". That stuff is still out there, and if you can't find it, you're not on the right private torrent server.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:25 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


> John Mayer - Bigger Than My Body, Damien Rice - The Blower's Daughter, Chingy, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg - Holidae Inn, The Click Five - Just the Girl

This is a weird list - at least these four songs were all very popular. Especially Holidae Inn.

> Ripping a WAV or FLAC used to take too much disk space to be viable storage-wise

Depending on the genre, sometimes (admittedly rarely) FLAC will actually be smaller than a comparable MP3. WAVs will always be huge, they're not compressed.
posted by reductiondesign at 6:38 PM on September 8


Still, the article has a point. Our migration to digital lives has made practically all of western culture of the last twenty years more susceptible to being lost forever than thhe culture of two hundred years ago.
This isn't right, though.

A house fire would destroy your CD or vinyl collection.

If my house burned down, I'd be able to restore my digital files from Backblaze, and be back in business. That's a huge difference. You just have to pay attention.

Which, as others have noted, the author didn't do. I've been buying music for a long time, and my buying habits have included the iTunes Store from day one (as well as my local shop; we're lucky enough to live in a place that has one). I have no "deleted years." The whole premise doesn't make sense.

From the article:
But if you were an early adopter of Apple Music Store, as I was, everything you bought from 2003 to 2009 is stuck on a dusty iPod for which a charger can no longer be found, or on a MacBook that’s three MacBooks ago.
This is just factually untrue. Maybe the author ended up in this situation through bad choices, but it's by no means a universal state. I mean, that assertion is baffling and counterfactual.

Conflating the inherently ephemeral nature of pop -- MOST of it is forgotten, after all, and this has been true for ever -- with a failure of backups is a little goofy.
posted by uberchet at 6:49 PM on September 8


On the one hand, I agree with this thesis, having had a few legal doc review jobs where I was allowed to listen to music while working, but not to bring my phone into the room, and so I brought my wife's old iPod in there with me, and damn if it wasn't a very specific time capsule.

(It was also a lesson in all the old classic jazz standards I didn't know I needed. My wife has good taste.)

But this article also hit some sort of trigger for her about how the author simply didn't know how data storage worked, how anything he ever bought off of Apple Music Store will follow him onto all future devices, etc.

For me, it felt like, yeah dawg, every era has it's lasting stars and folks who didn't quite do it. If SheDaisy is your go-to for lost music then your lens is a bit narrow.

So I leave you with this, which some of you might have seen before, but which lets you play around in this era to do wild, wonderful, horrible things. I particularly recommend pairing "Touch the Sky" with Fountains of Wayne and the White Stripes, or Vanessa Carlton with DMX, but it's your playground. Have fun.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:13 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Keep thinking I should sell all my CDs while they still have some resale value ... unlike vinyl I can’t see them coming back.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:32 PM on September 8


I somewhat related to this and somewhat didn't.

If I launch iTunes I can download everything I ever bought. What’s the big deal? Now all that stuff I downloaded under legally dubious circumstances is long gone, but the legit stuff persists. What gives?

I still have my old iPod with both music I bought off iTunes, CD's I burned, and music I got in legal but creative ways, but as was pointed out above, I can't download anything off of it, and the jack is so jacked that I can't plug anything into it any more and have to listen to it through the jack with nothing plugged into it, and even that sound is getting janky now. I miss my old playlists.

I had a collection of ridiculous Christmas music I spent years on that's more or less gone now. The laptop that held my collection developed a weird "turns itself off randomly" problem and is no longer reliable to use. I still own it but I highly doubt it would stay on long enough to be able to backup my music off of it now.

What's in danger of getting lost is bootlegs, live shows, your friend's band who never got signed but should have and you have their self-produced EP to prove it. Truly unique and niche content,

I recently got a new iPod and everything I bought off iTunes is still saved and on it (even if I have to stream it via wi-fi or outright download the music now). I still have a lot of CD's that I can reburn if I have to. But all the creatively gotten but legal stuff? Yeah, kinda gone and may or may not be able to replace. It'd be a huuuuuuge amount of work to try, sigh.

I truly do not get why Spotify and streaming random tunes has become The Thing instead of owning your own music and curating your own playlists and listening to exactly what you wanna. I get that for movies because you may or may not always want to rewatch a movie, but most folks want to relisten to music. I don't understand it. I think it's bad enough that your ebooks might be taken away too, while we're at it.

The thing I'm discovering with a lot of the Youngs is, they don't even know how to play a CD let alone own a CD player.

I just came from being lectured by some dude at the grocery store that he can charge his phone THROUGH HIS CD PLAYER IN HIS CAR. I only recently stopped driving a car from 2001, but uh...that was not how the charger worked.

Hell, my new car doesn't even have a CD player. I have to hook up a CD player to my laptop now to burn/watch anything.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:21 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


If you have an old iPod and don’t mind tearing it open, these days you can turn a iPod classic in to a 1TB storage, 200hr battery life endless music machine with a couple cheap modifications.

My wife used to take actual CDs from her 400+ collection (she worked at the Barnes&Noble music counter for years when that was still a thing...) in the car and I finally got sick of them taking up room and burned them all to mp3 and modded iPod. Now she can take every song she ever paid for or otherwise with us, not worry about losing the discs, and we still don’t pay for Apple Music or Spotify.

Apple killing the iPod classic was a real loss
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:27 PM on September 8 [9 favorites]


I'm just glad the article name checked Johnny Hates Jazz.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:04 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


So is this just the post-millennial version of this post? I'm so bored of these articles saying "My experience of music is of course everyone's experience of music." I still have my old Jem and Tapes 'n Tapes tracks, friendo, and they crop up in my iPhone's shuffle all the time. Boo yah or whatever.

I will admit that due to a change in email address, I lost my AACs of the first Donnas album and some Janet Jackson track my girlfriend downloaded for her dance routine, but (a) I could get them back now if I wanted to and (b) I haven't because I don't. Meanwhile I do still have a ton of weird and unclassifiable tracks I downloaded from Napster back when it was new and even tech companies didn't know to block it on their internet connections.
posted by ejs at 10:46 PM on September 8


From 2005, North American Hallowe'en Prevention Initiative - "Do They Know It's Hallowe'en?"

Featuring:
Win Butler & Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire
Beck
Buck 65
David Cross
Liane Balaban of Dessert
Devendra Banhart (with Noah Georgeson, Jona Bechtolt & Luckey Remington)
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Feist
Gino Washington
Syd Butler of Les Savy Fav
J'aime Tambeur of Islands
Malcolm McLaren
Nardwuar the Human Serviette
Peaches
Dntel
Jenny Lewis & Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley
Roky Erickson
Chris Murphy of Sloan
Asya & Chloe of Chaos Chaos
Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth
Russell Mael of Sparks
Subtitle
Steve Jocz of Sum 41
Tanya Tagaq
Anna Waronker of That Dog
Dan Boeckner & Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade
Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs
absolutely 100% some intended-to-be disposable nonsense from this era, but I think of it often.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:32 PM on September 8 [3 favorites]


I don’t have any streaming services, maybe due to their lack of wax cylinders and 78’s

You want The Internet Archive's collection of 78s and cylinders then.

And here I am still using last.fm to track my music habits.

Me too.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:35 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Back in the mid-1980s, it seems like there was a small flurry of alarmist articles on the theme "all your CDs will rot away, and the audio record of our civilization will be DOOMED". For commercially-produced CDs, that prediction turned out fairly wrong. Or at least, my CDs from that era are all just fine.
posted by gimonca at 5:08 AM on September 9


I tend to listen to music in the car, mostly. Many years ago, I bought an 'almost new' 98 Civic. It came with an AM/FM Radio. I replaced it with an aftermarket CD player/changer. (With a removable faceplate--remember when paranoia around someone stealing your car stereo was a thing?)

It turned out that aftermarket stereo would play burned CDs with mp3s on them. Fantastic--I can put just under 200 pop songs on a disc! That practice kept me going for several years.

Latest vehicle came with a USB input, finally. (Also, this vehicle is from the last year of its make/model to have any kind of CD player at all.) Now my library of about 4000 tracks fits on a single, cheapish USB stick that lives inside the compartment where the outlets are.

Anyway, during the years I was listening to music on burned CDs, I'd re-burn the CDs every couple of years as my collection grew. I have old spindles of burned discs sitting around all over the home office area--I probably have 20x the backups that I really need. Plus, USB stick and portable drive backups. I should look into some kind of cloud storage, but I'm almost thinking that throwing a USB stick in my safe deposit box would work as well.
posted by gimonca at 5:20 AM on September 9


Every now and again I get an earworm I won’t ever track down because it’s a memory of a random song my sister downloaded off Napster/Limewirr/Morpheus/Kazaa by typing random characters in the search box and downloading the top result (painstakingly, overnight, monopolising the family computer). I kept hundreds of those random songs until my iPod was stolen sometime around 2008. Honestly, my music discovery game was never stronger than 1998 - 2008.
posted by third word on a random page at 5:22 AM on September 9


Man, the mention of Anna Waronker up there reminds me: that dog was a great band, and seems to me to support the thesis of the article. “Retreat from the Sun” is a great album absolutely no one talks about anymore, at least not where I hear it.
posted by holborne at 5:49 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Keep thinking I should sell all my CDs while they still have some resale value ... unlike vinyl I can’t see them coming back.
Only do this if you do not retain copies of the music. Your CD is your license to the music. If you sell the CD, that license transfers, but it does so at the expense of your legal and moral right to retain the copies of the music.
posted by uberchet at 6:15 AM on September 9


Yikes, belay my comment above — “Retreat from the Sun” came out in 1997. Man, I’m old.
posted by holborne at 6:53 AM on September 9


I have CDs dating back to the 80s. Most of them still play just fine. They're a fine storage medium, especially if they are manufactured and not burned.

I continue to buy CDs and vinyl, and am happy to have a digital music library also. Anything I want to truly have as "mine" I buy on physical media. I play music out of my own library, and rarely stream. (Although I do love YouTube for finding music.)

The thing I'm discovering with a lot of the Youngs is, they don't even know how to play a CD let alone own a CD player.

So peculiar, to live in a world where the things you love might be taken away at any moment due to corporate whims or market forces.

Physical media protects me from that. Maybe someday the kiddos will learn that, too.
I just ripped all my CDs that I didn't already have digital copies of and roughly 70% of them wouldn't read properly. They'd play more or less okay in a CD player that wasn't a computer (like an old stereo), but they wouldn't play, or would only play with significant errors, on a computer, and wouldn't rip without errors. I took a long, long time and lots of special software to get usable music out of them, and in some cases it couldn't be done and I had to track down new copies to purchase.

My partner is an archivist, and she tells me that CD rot is a real thing and happens much faster than was formerly believed. Additionally, manufacturing errors are a big problem and were very common in the '90s, and the hardware we use to read CDs has changed quite a bit since the '90s (it's capable of much more, but is also less forgiving). For instance: Warner Music was notorious for not actually following the Red Book standard in the mid to late '90s, but CD players of that era could generally muddle through without issue--but their discs often won't play at all on more modern hardware/software combinations, even if the disc hasn't suffered any chemical/physical deterioration.
This isn't right, though.

A house fire would destroy your CD or vinyl collection.

If my house burned down, I'd be able to restore my digital files from Backblaze, and be back in business. That's a huge difference. You just have to pay attention.

Which, as others have noted, the author didn't do. I've been buying music for a long time, and my buying habits have included the iTunes Store from day one (as well as my local shop; we're lucky enough to live in a place that has one). I have no "deleted years." The whole premise doesn't make sense.
It makes perfect sense. Again, citing my partner the professional archivist, digital media requires extremely frequent migration, the maintenance of defunct hardware and software for older file types, and a variety of other expensive specialist systems to maintain. The hardware that stores most digital media has a very short shelf life when compared to vinyl or magnetic tape (or even paper). When discussing digital archiving she uses words like "nightmare" and "extremely fragile". Digital archiving is even less "set it and forget it" than physical archiving.
posted by Fish Sauce at 7:39 AM on September 9 [2 favorites]


Not only do I still have most of my CDs, I also have most of my old cassette tapes. And even the vinyl that I collected as a teenager (although that's in my parent's house, and I think one of the things I will do to celebrate getting out of debt is to buy a proper turntable and reclaim them all).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on September 9


User fails to back up iTunes purchases, blames world.
posted by hypnogogue at 8:01 AM on September 9 [4 favorites]


Keep thinking I should sell all my CDs while they still have some resale value ... unlike vinyl I can’t see them coming back.

We're seeing the same thing happen now with CDs as happened with vinyl in the 90s... the format loses its cachet and doesn't sell, so many new releases get an initial small pressing, and when it sells out they don't make any more. This makes them scarce, and that is the main indicator of value. It's already very apparent on the secondhand CD market. As a record collector in the 90s, it was widely assumed that vinyl would soon be gone and would not come back. So it's hard for me to say that about CDs now. All the current arguments about the superiority of vinyl have been made about CDs in the past, and there's no reason to believe that polarity won't flip again. Just human nature.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:01 AM on September 9 [3 favorites]


I’m in the midst of my own lost decade, or perhaps I just entered a musical cave with all of my pre-2010 CDs and will never emerge? My college PC with CD burner bit the dust in 2009, I don’t think I’ve loaded new music onto my SanDisk Sansa since that one really good Andrew Bird album came out, and I’ve always hated iTunes, so I don’t have any music on my phone. Yesterday in the car I busted out an old Elliott Smith mix CD I burned in college, and my 6-year-old kid sounded surprised when he said that he liked it. He loves my Tapes N Tapes + Dance Band mix. Minneapolis people, what ever happened to Dance Band?? It is impossible to Google.
posted by Maarika at 9:29 AM on September 9


Digital archiving is even less "set it and forget it" than physical archiving.
Well, no archiving is "set it and forget it."

The advantage with digital is that you can have your archive in multiple places, which provides a level of protection absolutely unavailable with physical-bound media. That was my point. That doesn't mean digital doesn't have its own issues, or that you get this for free.

Obviously format shifts and the like are a potential problem, but it's a pretty good bet that MP3 is going to be around a LONG time -- I don't know where I'd look to verify this, but I feel pretty comfortable guessing that there are more devices capable of playing an MP3 today than any previous music format or container has ever enjoyed, probably by several orders of magnitude.

(Lossless formats are probably less well supported, but I'd be surprised if this wasn't true for FLAC, too, since we're talking about literally every desktop and laptop computer sold in the last 15 years as well as every Android phone and probably every iPhone.)

It'd be hard for that to go away, even in the new market for music shifts to something else (I have no idea what that would be, since even golden-ear types can't tell high-bit MP3 from CD source). I mean, it's been shown already to be more "durable" than CD itself, given how badly some firms (as you note) handled the Red Book standard.

I've recently had reason to check my oldest CDs (ie, a fit of 49-year-old nostalgia), and I didn't find any issues playing them on my 18 month old BluRay player. But obviously that's anecdotal. Old CD-Rs seem WAY more prone to trouble -- to say nothing of old DVD-Rs. I have some of those barely 10 years old that won't play, whereas my 30-year-old CD copy of "The Lion and the Cobra" plays just fine.
digital media requires extremely frequent migration
I'd love to have a conversation about what that means beyond "different from physical." It SOUNDS scary and onerous, but I've kept my own fairly nontrivial music archive safe with fairly limited overhead -- I just migrate disks every few years to avoid failure. I could do it cheaper, or easier, I suspect, if I were in the business of archiving.

I do absolutely understand that serious archiving presumably involves preservation of source media and the assumption that assistive/playback tech may not be available. We can read scrolls from lost civilizations, but if there's an interruption of digital culture who's to say our digital formats will be intelligable to the next civilization? Or even survive until then? I have no idea. If that's the worry, yeah, I get it, but I don't know the answer. But it's kinda orthogonal to the article.
User fails to back up iTunes purchases, blames world.
Bingo.
posted by uberchet at 9:34 AM on September 9


And yeah, I mean when you get into the deep nerdery of what eleven nines of object durability really means for digital archives - if it's just active integrity checking + redundancy + backups + etc - is that zfs (or btrfs) + good storage management? Is it automatic checksums versus the archived copy with a "hey wait, 'wannabe.mp3' in the pool is different than 'wannabe.mp3' in the backup" warning? Something even more redundant like a filesystem equivalent of parchives with external checksums and index files? Like, is this a standard that is even achievable by the home user, or does it require complex systems that assume you're willing to throw a lot of money at it because the alternative is going out of business.

And ultimately, does bit rot actually matter for mp3s and videos? Sure, the bit rot concerns for jpgs and word documents and such are undeniable, but what's the worst case scenario for bit rot that still results in a playable media file? (versus bit rot that blows out the header so vlc throws up its hands) A passing bit of noise? A macroblock that has a weird color until the next I frame comes along? Do I care? Would I notice before the file became so corrupted that it started skipping frames?
posted by Kyol at 10:01 AM on September 9


Kyol: I'm on my sixth or seventh migration of my personal files since 1998 and I've already lost a ton of stuff, mostly to hardware failures. Either I wasn't replacing failing hardware in time, or I didn't make enough money to replace it in time (and certainly didn't have enough money for a service). I've never lost "everything", it's always just been a percentage of non-recoverable data.

uberchet: I didn't mean to imply that any archiving is "set it and forget it," only that digital archiving requires more regular attention. Even from a "personal, non-expert" standpoint I really only need to think about my books (1,300 or so of them) about once every ten years from a preservation standpoint. My MP3s require attention every 3-ish years.
posted by Fish Sauce at 11:29 AM on September 9


kinda seems like this guy just listens to crappy, forgettable music. I mostly listen to hip hop, and while the mainstream hit the low around 2003 (the ja rule era), there was plenty of good stuff coming out in those years. fucking good kid m.a.a.d. city came out in that era, and that's kendricks second album AFTER he changed his name. I'm not a fan of kanye, but his presence and influence is undeniable, as mentioned above. Danny Brown, the underachievers, and Chance came up then, too. Not to mention odd future, I know Tyler isn't popular here, but FOH if you think earl and frank ocean are disposable. Established artists were solid, underground and mainstream alike.

I mean, yeah it's a shame we don't get more fucking drivelly John Mayer songs, but I'm 100% sure you can find it on YouTube and reminisce about his glory days and that he's actually a really good guitar player (eye-roll).

hands up if yall still got your kwame singles on minidisc!

but hey, columnists gotta column.
posted by lkc at 2:11 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


The sort of deep nerdery dive I'd love to read and ask questions about is probably beyond the scope of this thread.

I've migrated my personal files from laptop to laptop for 20 years, and everything I go looking for is there, at least so far -- or, at least, everything after the One Great Data Loss I had, and I suspect everyone has, before they get the backup religion, and (fortunately) most of the stuff from before.

But there was the loss, and in my case I should've known better. I was relying on a very dumb backup scheme (periodically mirroring my drive to a backup; I had no depth or versioning or checksumming), and when the controller started to go bad for the drive my backups started to back up the corruption. It was ugly.

That's when I got serious about versions and cold-storage images and whatnot, and also about the time Apple added Time Machine, which is pretty great.
Even from a "personal, non-expert" standpoint I really only need to think about my books (1,300 or so of them) about once every ten years from a preservation standpoint. My MP3s require attention every 3-ish years.
...but with digital, you can keep copies in multiple places, so fire or flood or other disaster doesn't mean loss. You can't really do that with books.
posted by uberchet at 2:23 PM on September 9


Hah, I think his argument resonated more with me because I had that SheDaisy album. But the reason I don't have it anymore is because someone stole my physical CDs, not because iTunes ate my homework. In fact, I've still got all my iTunes stuff and that's no problem. The CDs are the lost ones for me. There's a Dixie Chicks album--with the lineup before they added Natalie Maines--that I'll never get back.

And yes, Senuti (iTunes backwards) is totally the friend of anyone who has a playable iPod but no longer has the iTunes that it was attached to. I've used it on my dad's iPod at least three times now.

Also that Razorlight song is a total ear worm and wow the memories. It's not available on my streaming service, either.

My profession puts me in a mindset to think critically about the ephemeral nature of things (librarian, not archivist, but we just preserve different things). I give the author a hearty welcome to the preservation side of history. It's grim here.
posted by librarylis at 2:26 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I threw out all my CDs as soon as MP3s became faster to download than to listen to. Then deleted all my MP3s as soon as streaming became viable and cheap. All the music I've ever listened to is available instantly, from anywhere. Including a million things I haven't heard before but might get into in the future. What exactly has been lost?
posted by signal at 5:46 PM on September 9


Oh I have tons of music (literally, on vinyl) that was never even released on CD, much less files. Whenever something like that does find its way to mp3 it's always a fan rip, not an official release.
posted by rhizome at 5:57 PM on September 9


Minneapolis people, what ever happened to Dance Band?? It is impossible to Google.

I did google around a tiny bit and found this article about Captain Octagon quitting the band back in 2009. So there's a hint and maybe other things can be found with that as a seed.
posted by hippybear at 6:13 PM on September 9


A bit more on Dance Band as I continue to refine my searching. Also, their mostly-abandoned MySpace page. Also, Captain Octagon (Paul Wichser) seems to have twitter and Instagram accounts, but they are both private.

Okay, enough cyberstalking a band I've never heard of before!
posted by hippybear at 6:27 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


I read this article over the weekend and it made me angry. Some of us backed up our digital valuables. My digital collection spans the first CDs to now, and is backed up in at least three physical locations, on numerous hard drives, and a couple of clouds.

Everything I ever bought on iTunes is still in that collection. Most of the shit I downloaded from Napster is still in there, although a lot of it got culled because it was broken, mislabelled, or at a bit rate so low I rebought it, if I cared about it.

(on the flip side, I lost every game, and all the source code I wrote before the year 2000, so hey, I learned my backup lesson, just not on music)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:04 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


If anyone is still reading this thread, just two things:

1) I had never heard of the Pipettes, but, seriously, wow.

2) My forgotten band of record from this period would undoubtedly be Voxtrot. Anyone who hasn't heard of them is guaranteed to ask "wait, who is this?" and anyone who has is guaranteed to exclaim "oh, Voxtrot! I need to listen to more of their stuff." Of course, there never will be any more of their stuff, since it has all vanished into the all-consuming void.

Also The Weakerthans what what
posted by lorddimwit at 8:36 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


Wait, sorry -- what about the Weakerthans, now?
posted by holborne at 10:33 AM on September 10


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