« Subtle Dilemma | Main | Print Sale Update »

Saturday, 31 May 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I've got the cheap gene too, and have never culled any music, except for accidental duplicates.

Like old contact sheets reviewed years later, there are sometimes gems lying undiscovered.

Just the kind of detective mystery I love... the original photographer is apparently Hugh Brown:


I don't cull my music like you are proposing. Instead I use playlists and add and remove from them as necessary. This way I never have to be faced with the deleting question.

No culling here. I am pack rat when it comes to books and records (lenses, too). There might be some records I won't listen to for 2, 5, or even 10 years, but I do remember most of them and there comes a time when I want to listen to them again, or play them for somebody else. About 6 years ago, I bought a new turntable/pickup and phono preamp to be able to listen to my 700+ Vinyl records again. A similar or slightly higher number of CD's and SACD's; 98% of the music in my itunes is from those CD's, but I still keep the CD's themselves and play them.

Hi Mike,
My music collection is on CD having transitioned to CD's from LP's in the 1980's. I haven't moved to MP3's as my hearing is (I think) still good enough to hear the (small) compression artefacts they have. I have a small collection of Super Audio CD's which (I feel) are audibly superior to their CD cousins.
I used to do the occasional "cull" of my CD collection but now (in my mid-50's) have a collection of music I don't think I could part with. Some CD's I might only listen to once a year (or less) but occasionally I put them on - many for nostalgic reasons. I have got more selective about purchases nowadays, so the collection is growing more slowly than it used to.
Cheers Kevin

I have not bought an LP since 1993 and haven't disposed of one since long before that, so my answer is that I don't cull them. As for CDs, I have only a few hundred of those, so it's not become an issue yet, and I don't do iTunes or .mp3s, so that's a non-issue altogether.

That said, I do sense the time is coming for me to go through my collection of ~5,000 LPs and narrow my focus, because the music that accompanied me through my errant youth is unlikely to become the music of my dotage. (Fortunately, I was wise enough to steer clear of anything by Boz Scaggs, but I do have some 80s dance music that I find to be similarly embarrassing today. What was I thinking?!)

We've done huge culls over the years, all prompted by major moves. I am spending this weekend building CD shelves that will hold 500 CDs and one shelf of DVDs, and that, we've agreed, will be the limit we hold to. If #501 comes in, then one goes out. Wish me luck on the discipline!

I have had a few bad experiences getting rid of stuff I don't think I have a need for, and regretting it. I have a lot of good experiences finding old stuff I didn't do anything with at the time and finding a good use for it later. So, lately, no, I don't get rid of content or papers much at all. And music and books are so small in digital form, the amount I could save by getting rid of stuff is trivial.

I have removed the occasional disk or two from the digital archive. Mostly kid music and stuff. But really it's not worth the time. The storage costs are nominal and iTunes can generally find what you want to listen to anyway.

I cull my physical media by losing it. I've sold some off too. But not really a significant amount.

This could just as easily be a coment on the previous post, culling and editing being two sides of the same coin as it were.

I used to have a client who would go through stacks of slides I had shot at say some party at studio 54 to pick out "the good ones" First he would cull all the slides where there was something wrong , like something weird in the background ( and there was *lots* of weird stuff in the background ) or supermodels looking goofy etc. Of course all shots that I liked were in the cull pile.

Over the years I accumulated a lot of extra prints that were not quite as good as the the final prints or identical prints made in case one got damaged in the wash or spotting went wrong. Most people would have thrown them all out. Somewhere over a thirty year period that included a couple fires, several floods, a building collapse, lost shipping, and my 5th floor Manhattan apartment getting accidently filled with wet concrete, most of the "good" prints and many of the negatives have disappeared. Luckily I still have the bad prints, which turn out to be just as good as the good prints for the purposes of scanning.

In my youth, I used to DJ at my student union and various bars in London. As with most of my fellow DJs, I aspired to own a huge collection of records spanning countless genres. One of the guys I often played with, a chap called Luke, had neither the space not funds to grow and maintain a large record collection. He never owned more records than would fit into his two record bags (the most he was happy to carry to a gig). Every week or two, he would sell a few records and replace them with new ones. Not only was this a sustainably affordable approach, but the slow turnover of his collection was beneficial musically. Over the weeks, his DJ sets would evolve with the addition of new music yet maintain a continuity that is critical to building a recognisable personal style.

We periodically go through the books, records and cds and sell them to the local used books, records and cds store. But there have been no major purges. I suppose a time will come when we run out of room ...

Don't cull; use smart playlists.

The major win of the move to digital (in photography and music) is being able to use the metadata to manage to images (or songs) better i.e. in ways you wouldn't attempt if you had to do it by hand.

Smart playlists to show you 10 songs that you've not played in a long time that are marked as favorites. Or ones you've played recently. Or that were made in 1989 (and haven't been played in the last month and aren't in the playlist of ignored albums). Or 10 songs of the French chansonniers from the 1950s and 1960s. Or ... whatever.

If you haven't learnt to use smart playlists then you should start now. If you are using smart playlists then think about how you can use smart playlists that reference other smart playlists ("playlist is ..."). You'd be surprised what you can acomplish with this.

Hint: In iTunes if you hit "option and +" to add a criterion to a Smart Playlist you'll find it adds an indented subgroup of criteria.

It's completely worthless to cull your digital files, the amount of space they take up is effectively meaningless. I have 12TB of hi-res audio, it's on 4 normal external drives. From a physical space equivalent it is approximately the same size as 12-15 LP's. That's so small as to be beyond notice. If you have only MP3 quality or even .WAV or FLAC, it will all fit on a compact HD roughly the same size as an oversize deck of cards. Just keep it all so that every once in a while you are completely surprised at a song when shuffling.

Culling your Vinyl is a completely different ball of wax -- my attitude is that you must replace the sell-offs (on a dollar-to-dollar basis) with new fancy desirable records you have wanted but can't quite stomach buying at current prices without a good excuse.

As someone else mentioned, you will end up with a better, stronger collection in the end.

I'm currently in the middle of an (approx.) 3-foot cull of records. (I have always thought in linear feet, not actual numerical quantity) Some things will go , some will stay, and the process, which does require listening to everything on the chopping block, makes the adventure quite interesting.

After digitizing my library for the first time 15 years ago, I found that there is no doubt that files degrade over time. So I still buy hard copies, and I use a RAID setup, and I cull both digitally and physically. But on the iTunes side, I pre-cull by unchecking the box next to each song I don't want to hear again. If I go a year or so without missing it, out it goes.

I have also trashed a lot of jewel cases, but I've kept the liner notes for most CDs, and moved the discs into sleeves.

No. iTunes handles large collections easily, and storage is almost free. Plus, I find that my tastes drift from time to time. I'd had to cull something only to want to listen to it ten or fifteen years later.

I might be more inclined to cull if I wasn't already managing a huge set of digital images. In terms of storage, my iTunes library is practically a rounding error on my photo library.

David Byrne is also an accomplished photographer, by the way. He used to go to Oaxaca, Mexico, and spend some time doing photo there.

Just to exercise my pedant's prerogative, isn't the full title of the album, "My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts"?

Anyway, bought the vinyl in 1982, included the song Regiment on a few mix tapes (excellent party song if you can sneak it in at the right moment), bought the CD this century. Jian Ghomeshi uses Regiment as background for his listeners' letters segment on the CBC radio program, "Q", also broadcast on American Public Radio apparently.

To mish the mash even further, I've heard samples from the album folded into more recent electronic songs on internet radio ambient channels.

I moved about a year ago and had to pack up my nearly 1,000 CDs collection. I had plenty of warning and started to rip them all to hard drive in lossless format. After about 100 discs I realised what a huge task that was and abandoned it.

I then took them all out of their cases, put the CDs with their front inserts into the cheap CD albums you can buy and threw the cases out, many plastic bags full. A friend wanted some and took them away. During this process I did a bit of a cull (how many 60s and 70s Hits compilations do I need?) but all my classical and jazz discs went into the albums in something of a disordered order.

Now in my new house and a year later, my friend has brought all the bags of cases back, complete with the rear inserts. I could do what would be a long tedious job of matching up the cases with their discs and rebuilding my nice neat alphabetical collection on shelves, but I've found that flipping through the album pages and selecting something that catches my eye is not a bad way to go. My large collection is physically reduced to about 6 albums, too. I also notice which discs are never selected. Cull no. 2 coming up.

I'd like to finish the job of ripping to HD, but it's not the same as having those nice cases with their attractive sleeves. On the contrary, I feel I'd prefer to return all those lossless rips to CD again.

But it's all too timewasting at 67. I have more productive things to do, like writing my memoirs before it's too late.

Re selecting your best images, try composing Photobooks of your best work. I've done six so far on various themes, with two more in the works. There's something about arranging your work laid on screen pages in a kind of page order that works for me and I'm very, very pleased with the printing quality. People will look at a book, where they definitely won't look at a screen or slideshow.

I keep them all, vinyl and CD's. They take up room but not that much. I remember when my wife's grandparents died and left a nice classical collection for us to divide up, what a very nice gift to us of music they loved. I hope our children or grandchildren will inherit some gems. I may not listen to all of them but they may find a pleasant surprise.

Since they don't take physical space, and really, even hard drive space is effectively infinite, what I would suggest is to just move the culled music out of your iTunes library and into an archive folder. That removes the mental distraction of so many albums, and you can put them back in as moods change. I've been toying with the idea myself recently (~30,000 tracks).


Why do you have to "toss" the digital downloads you don't like? Just don't listen to them. Don't stick them in playlists. Move them to another hard drive where you still "have" them, but never even need to see them again, let alone listen to them.

Whenever I have made the effort to discard books/music/film/art, etc, on the ground that they were excessive or redundant, and done so, I have later regretted it. Hence, another pack-rat here.

My home in inner-city Melbourne (Oz) is small, so excessive books (especially)/records/dvd/cd/video cassettes/art/wine/amplifiers/speakers/cameras/etc etc are stored at an off-site storage facility. Luckily, it is open 24-hours and is within a 10 minute stroll. So whenever I feel the need, I rotate things from home to storage and vice versa. Voila!

Worst aspect of culling is when you hope to resell for a few dollars and find out how small an amount the LPs or CDs fetch. Feels like a diminishment of your good taste in buying the title in the first place.

On the other hand I did pick up complete set of Karajan Beethoven Symphonies CDs for $15 from St Vincent de Paul recently.

A year ago I took out a subscription to Spotify not thinking I'd like it. At first I didn't, the interface confused me and I was listening mostly to the same stuff I already owned. Then slowly I started discovering new songs and artists and rediscovering music I hadn't bought through my lifetime. As I like classical, esp. Mahler, I discovered that I could call up for example Mahler's 3rd symphony and listen to various conductor's renditions from Bruno Walter to Bernstein to Rattle. They had nearly every conductor who ever recorded Mahler's 3rd.

Spotify streams music in 320kbs/sec bitrate. Even with really high end headphones and similar DAC and headphone amp I can maybe tell a small difference between 320kbs/sec and uncompressed music though I'm not at all confident I could tell in an ABX comparison. Maybe...

A few months ago I started listening to Qobuz, a French streaming company (about to launch in the states) which streams uncompressed FLAC files. For classical music and live Jazz it's great, rich collection and just that small extra tinge of air and detail which may be a psychological phenomenon or may be real but I like it.

I could care less about iTunes now and my lifelong CD collection feels extraneous. Highly recommended.

To your situation I can see a simple solution (isn't it always easier to solve other people's problems?). Buy a cheap small bus driven 1tb hard drive. Copy your iTunes folder onto it so you have a backup of all your music. Put the hard drive in a drawer or nook where you can forget about it and cull away to your hearts content on your working copy of iTunes secure in the knowledge that if you have regrets you only need to remember where you put that drive with all your music on it.

A friend at work and I make a monthly Friday lunch trip to one of the nice record stores which have opened during the past few years near our office. A trade of four used CDs plus some change will net a new-to-you used CD so we've been taking advantage. It's fun searching the CD bins for the older out of print albums I've wanted to purchase for years and I've figured someone else may enjoy the albums I've decided to trade. And I find a new or used LP now and then too. I would never have imagined my two most recent "new" music purchases being Dave Brubek LPs. As for culling picks I doubt that Norah Jones will ever leave my CD collection.

I'm sorry to hear about "Silk Degrees" falling out of favor. I listened to my LP copy just last weekend and decided that side two may be the best, most complete adult pop album side from the 1970s.

The Byrne/Eno revisions have little to do with clearances -- legalities were well-looked after on the original release. The most famous change was the deletion of the track "Qu'ran" from later pressings after complaints from an Islamic organization in London. It led side 2. The CD adds a lot of material but other than that doesn't take things away. Your auditory memory may be tricking you, and if you have a pressing with "Qu'ran," well, it does change the flow of side b quite a bit. Early CD versions actually saw "Qu'ran" restored, but it was deleted on anything manufactured after 1990.
I'm in the midst of a vinyl cull right now. LPs are taking on a new role in my listening as my library of recordings that I want to live with for the long term. I'm buying quite a few as they survive the ravages of time far better than CDs (which delaminate or become otherwise unplayable too easily) and can sound better to boot. Space for them in my living room is very finite. Much of my collection is inherited from friends, family, near-strangers (I accepted a lot of vinyl when everyone was ditching theirs). As such, some has got to go.

Things that I want out of the listening pile but don't want to lose entirely go to basement storage. Everything else either goes for sale on discogs or goes into triage for a valedictory listen to decide whether it has a future. I'm always cautious; my musical interests have evolved so much that I'm never sure what will catch my interest a decade from now.

I never throw my digital files away. A well-organized library looks after that. There's always the option of keeping a holding pen folder on your music drives and backups for things you don't want to lose but don't want in the main library. Don't let your playback software index it and you're set.

Why not give your preferred digitized music a metadata tag (maybe a star rating) that distinguishes it from the stuff you no longer wish to listen to, so with the click of a button you can choose to display only the good stuff, while keeping the crap around just in case? I'm sure many of us do the same exact thing with our digital photographs.

I find very little reason to cull digital music. The cost of storage is just so cheap, the only time I get rid of something is when I truly can't stand it. But when in doubt, I leave it. You never know - the band you can't stand now often reveals something new and unexpected later in life.

To handle this growing collection of music, I use iTune's Smart Playlist feature extensively to curate what I listen to. I have used it to create several "radio stations" to play different styles and moods.

For example, one of my playlists plays one third favorites (4+ stars), one third new music (added in last 3 months), and one third music I haven't listened too much (hasn't played in last 6 months and is unrated). It provides a great mix of stuff I know I like, sprinkled with a lot of surprises and discovery.

I culled my LP's some eight years ago, mostly theatre/cinema pipe organ recordings from the UK and North America. Most had been recorded on other media including open reel 15" tape. Most ended up of audio casettes. In retrospect both a poor idea. There is a certain lush sound
that only vinyl is able to deliver. Now, after living in rental conditions most of my life at age 68 have my own small bungalow, fully paid for and am able to enjoy my music collection.

Which is why I regret the disposal of those LP's. System BTW is a Tascam CD/cassette combination unit, amp is thirty year old
McIntosh unit from friend who refurbishes them, fed into a pair of reconditioned Canadian built Paradigm two way speakers.
My Bryston amp BTW is held in reserve just in cass the McIntosh dies. Turntable was a
Panasonic of industrial strength however now
utilize a Linn Sondek which is quite lovely.
Also a Bryston CD player and a very servicable Revox A77 open reel machine for those numerous still in good condition open reel tapes.

My CB collection is small yet adequate,less than 250 and find my musical tastes vary, mostly stringed/plucked/struck instruments
and yes blower driven devices both classical and cinema although I find the CD
is still not as "nice," as vinyl. And my audiologist is still amazed my hearing
continues to be as acute as somebody in their early 20's not exposed to rock concerts. May it stay that way!

You're lucky to still have an original vinyl copy of MLITBOG; should you chose to buy a legitimate digital current edition it will be lacking one track. A quick glance at the original track listing will make it obvious which track has been culled. The why is equally obvious and very irritating - a concession to religious bigotry.

Surprised to see such hostility to Boz Scaggs. [No, it's not hostility. It's just an album I've heard enough and don't need to hear again. That list is a long one. --Mike] Like many other artists he's cut some unmemorable material but take another listen to his eponymous second album, featuring Duane Allman. At the other end of his career "Dig" is pretty good too, with only a couple of dodgy songs - but "Payday" and "I just go" are both terrific.

Easy peasy. Get an external hard drive and put all the songs you don't listen to on the drive and store it somewhere. NOT IN YOUR ATTIC.

I've never culled my music collection which is mostly LPs. I used to make 'road tapes' for trips in the car but I noticed that they usually were the same dozen albums. So a year or so I started a project where I play and record each of my albums to remind me why I bought that particular piece of music (24 bit 176kh). Then I edit the cuts to what I like and save them as .wav and mp3.
Now when I go on a trip I wrote a little program that randomly picks enough mp3s to fill up a 4gb SD card and that gives me over 24 hours of unrepeated music on my trips and I don't know which tune will play next.
It's a very tedious project and so far, I've only recorded about a tenth of my collection. But when I'm out on the highway, it makes my trips more pleasant.

Culling, as in separating -- yes. But I keep all my original LPs and CDs. I transfer some selected items to MP3 files to play in the car and those change with the seasons and my moods.
For serious listening, I have found my "top-shelf" changes more often than I thought it would and I'm grateful that I've kept everything. There's great fun in rediscovering some rare old gems.


I have never culled my LP collection and don't plan to. In fact, I will add to it, even if newer media (CD, SACD, digital files) are available.

In my last move the outer platter of my turntable has gone missing. I'm assuming it's in a box/tote I simply haven't located yet. So I haven't listened to an LP in a long time. Even before the move the turntable was in storage for other reasons, but ...

I have LPs that I am certain have cuts that will be a re-discovery for me once I am up and running. My collection is eclectic enough that a significant number of albums did not make the transition to a newer format. And unless an album is something I really want to listen to often and have mobile, I won't spend the money on buying a newer format just for the sake of doing so.

I have some Rick Wakeman vinyls that have not been played in 30 years and I would never part with them. I never get rid of anything. The only two things I ever sold were a summaron 3.5cm f3.5 and a 1969 Rolex GMT Master.



What a nice comment thread between Joe Holmes and Jack Illingworth. The "nesting" layout is well-implemented, too!

May I revise my opinion in the Suggestion Box. I'm now in favor of the occasional comment thread in the Featured Comments section. It illuminates the topic under discussion a bit more. And the way you did it above is easy on the eyes. (I hope nesting them manually is not labor intensive.)

- - -

Getting back on topic. My digital music files cull themselves of their own accord. I use 3" mini-CDs to store mp3 files for the car. They get scratched and become jumpy after a while. I use USB thumb drives at home. I eventually misplace, lose, or overwrite them. (I prefer USB now because the files are arranged as you intended. When burnt to blank CDs, mp3 files arrange themselves alphabetically.)

My mp3 files are all made from CDs I bought (plus a few borrowed hard-to-find albums). All told, my collection is in the low hundreds. No need to cull them yet. I have given away a few, though, which weren't good buys for my taste.

I use Spotify, Deezer and GPM exclusively. I do not own anymore music, but I can listen to anything that I want, anytime. So, I don't know what you're talking about...

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007