Musical Starvation

When I moved from one computer to another last spring, I accidentally erased my iTunes metadata. In other words, while I kept all my songs, I didn’t keep the information that told me when I got them, how many times I had played them, etc. I was bummed about this, and I felt stupid because I know what I should’ve done, but today I got an interesting view into my musical listening habits because of that mistake. (Technically, I could’ve seen this fact without the erasure, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed it.)

According to iTunes, I currently own 3575 things that one could consider “songs”. This excludes podcasts, voice memos, and other audio that isn’t music. Also according to iTunes, I haven’t listened to 2102 of those songs since March. In other words, almost 60% of my musical library has gone unused for the last seven months. That’s pretty surprising to me. When I really sit and think about this, it makes me wonder what the point of owning those songs is if I don’t listen to them at least a couple times a year. I mean, all my music put together isn’t even 10 days of music, so you’d think I would listen to most of my library a few times a year. But apparently I’ve been leaning pretty heavily in certain directions lately. Is this my brain’s way of telling me I own too much music? Is there a point at which a person can’t really consume and enjoy more music? Have I reached that?

So for a couple weeks I’m going to go on a diet of only music I haven’t been taking in lately. I’ll let you know how it goes. Try the same, if you’re game, and I’ll meet you back here sometime soon.

11 Comments

  1. Posted October 10, 2006 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Shuffle my friend. The whole library. I’ve done it twice in the last year with my whole collection. Granted I have less songs though (1642). Twice though is almost the size of your collection.

  2. Posted October 10, 2006 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    We bought our computer in 10/04. Since then…

    1492/5110 (29.3%) have not been played since 3/30/06 or earlier.

    1281/5110 (25.0%) have never even been played. A quick glance shows many of those are CDs I bought in high school or are concert albums.

    I occasionally dig around for an old album to listen to, and I’ve done the shuffle thing, but I’m too trigger happy to let it play through everything. But maybe I’ll go start on that now.

  3. Posted October 10, 2006 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t seem that surprising to me. I own 14 Petra albums–180 songs–but that doesn’t mean I listen to any of it very often nowadays (Dec. 7, 2005 was the last time I listened to any of it, and more than half of it I haven’t listened to at all).

    That’s part of what’s cool about iTunes specificaly and the concept of digital music in general. I can keep all sorts of stuff, whether I like it enough to listen to it 106 times (U2’s “All Because of You”) or 8 times (Petra’s “Beyond Belief”). I loved those Petra songs in middle school (OK, high school) and every now and then I might want to listen to them again (every now and then being once every three years). The beauty of digital music is that those 14 CDs don’t take up space on a shelf. Or I don’t have to trek down to the basement to find them. They’re at my finger tips.

    It seems incredibly self-indulgent, but part of the joy of a practically limitless digital library is that I can keep something on the off chance that some day I might want to listen to it.

  4. Posted October 10, 2006 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Ooh, Tim has a good idea.

    I started using iTunes in February 2004.

    6984/7772 (90%) have not been played since 3/30/06 or earlier.

    3716/7772 (48%) have never been played.

    I think that means I really get stuck on a select group of songs.

  5. Posted October 10, 2006 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    OK, I’m turning into a comment stalker here, but …

    I just made a playlist of everything I haven’t listened to in the past year (it’s still 6500+ songs) and started shuffling it.

    Currently listening to: “Heat It Up” by Degarmo & Key

    I can tell you there’s definitely a reason why I haven’t listened to this in the past year. 😉

    Though admittedly there are gems. The last song was Sixpence None the Richer’s “Dancing Queen”.

  6. Posted October 10, 2006 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Tim reminded me of something I forgot to mention. Just because it is on shuffle doesn’t mean I didn’t skip a few (or bunch) of songs. Shuffle just reminds me of stuff that I forgot about.

  7. Posted October 10, 2006 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    My earlier comment may have been misleading. 29% have been played, just not since before April 1. So combined with the 25% never played, I’ve not listened to 54% of my songs in the last few months.

    But let’s take a look at what we have listened to. My math shows that this is how many different songs each of us/our households have listened to since 3/30.

    Tim: 2337
    Josh: 1473
    Kevin: 788

    I think this earns me some sort of bragging rights, but I’m not sure what kind. As we used to say in high school, “Scoreboard.” (Of course, Kevin has the Current to keep him company…)

  8. Posted October 10, 2006 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I agree with Kevin. There are some songs that are unlistened to for a good reason. Tim has all the old PFR albums and I refuse to listen to them.

    After college I tried to clear out my CDs according to what I was listening to and now I regret my rash decisions. I find myself looking for songs that I knew I used to own, but must have sold because I hadn’t listened to them in a while. There will always be days when I want to hear an old Stone Temple Piolots song from my high school days. I plead with you, do not clear out your collection…it will haunt you.

  9. Posted October 10, 2006 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I agree, Nicole. Besides, having all that extra music makes me seem a lot less dorky when the youth group kids go through my iPod on a car ride and try to find something they like. Which they did this weekend. Consequently, when I hooked my iPod up and synced the numbers (this was after I calculated them above), those wacky youth group kids had found 40 songs on my iPod that hadn’t been played in the past year.

    Thought I must also disagree with Nicole. PFR rocks.

  10. Posted October 10, 2006 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent comments, everyone!!

    I agree with almost everyone on all points. which makes this comment seem a little lame and redundant. I don’t plan on erasing or getting rid of any of my music, so have no fear Nicole. I will heed your warning. My curiosity only really revolved around whether or not a person can really enjoy 3000+ songs a year. It’s sounding like there may be a breaking point somewhere around there, but it depends on the person.

    And in the end, the question doesn’t matter that much, because as Kevin pointed out, this is digital music. No shelf space, no extra weight to move in and out of cardboard boxes. And hard drives are growing every year. Listen when you want to, and don’t feel guilty when you don’t. It’s the best of both worlds.

    I also agree that shuffling is important! I go on semi-shuffle sometimes. I shuffle subsets of my music. I occasionally shuffle my entire library, but honestly I tend to get too much that I’m not in the mood for when I do. That’s one reason I’m excited about iTunes 7: the introduction of a “skip count” which increments each time you skip a song if the song was selected randomly and not manually. Handy! Now I can just listen normally, skip normally, and eventually I’ll be able to see which songs I hate the most, or at least the songs for which I’m most often not in the mood.

    And for the record, I also like PFR.

    And I haven’t listened to 75% of my PFR collection since March.

  11. Dave
    Posted November 9, 2006 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Two things you guys have to check out:

    1. last.fm check out http://last.fm/user/davidsiegel to see my listening trends.

    2. Amarok – approximately 10x better than iTunes. This is a Linux jukebox you can install on OS X with fink. The app’s slogan is “Rediscover your music” – it recommends music you have and music you don’t have to you. It works with your iPod. It has great statistics, smart playlists, etc. Basically, I was prepared to switch to Linux if I was unable to get this running on OS X – it’s that good.