You can tell a great deal about a person by taking a look at their music collection. People spend years building up their collection. As technology advances we leave behind the old relics of the past. Maybe you still have a stash of vinyl or cassettes you are still clinging to. Maybe your cassettes have been played so many times they are starting to deteriorate. Maybe your stereo with the record player died three years ago and you haven had the cash to spring for a new one. Maybe you have considered upgrading to CD’s, but you can’t seem to rationalize spending the money. Maybe you have discover (or rediscovered) a band, and you can’t wait to get your hands on everything they ever produced. If only it wouldn’t cost so much. Maybe it is more cost effective than you think.
In the age of the music download, the art of buy CD’s is becoming an endangered species. You are almost considered a second class citizen if you don’t have an I-POD. Even if you do not have an I-POD or another type of MP3 player, there is a good chance you use I-Tunes, Napster, or some other music download software for your computer. In this day and age it is becoming more and more common for people just to down load the music they want. They can buy whole albums, or they can download just the songs they want.
I was becoming one of those people. I have the I-POD, the I-Tunes and most of my music library already imported on to my computer. It just seemed like a logical step. I might buy a CD here and there if I really wanted to. Most times I would only buy the new releases of bands I followed religiously like Guster and Idlewild. Most of my other music I downloaded. CDs are expensive. I couldn’t rationalize spending $15-$20 dollars on an album when I could just get the highlights at $0.99 per song. If the particular album was an Import, it would run me even more. If I found myself in a discount record store, I would look for some of the rarities I couldn’t find on I-Tunes or that I would really prefer to have actual copies of, but that is where my usual CD buying would end.
Then my love of The Cure became rekindled. I’m not sure exactly how it happened. I had been a Cure fan in the past, but growing up in the middle of nowhere, if it was Top 40 radio, we rarely heard it. As I have grown up and moved away from that place I have tried to find music I actually like. Somehow that journey led me back to Robert Smith and his dark little band.
I initially downloaded their most recent Greatest Hits Album off of I-Tunes. A few months later, I found myself in Amoeba Records in San Francisco. I was digging through the used CD selection, and I decided to see what they had for The Cure. I ended up leaving the store with Head on the Door and the Lullaby single. While in San Francisco I heard Alt.End, a single from their 2004 self titled release, while at a coffee shop. I fell so in love with the song, I asked the girl at the counter what album it came off of. She told me and as soon as I returned home to Indiana I went on Amazon and found on for pretty cheap. Soon, I was on a mission to own as much of their music as humanly possible.
This looked to be quite an expensive venture. The Cure had been around since 1977. They had released several records over the years. Some were rare, some were re-mastered and re-released as deluxe CD’s. There were quite a few live albums. If I really wanted to own every last one of them, that would be quite the investment. I needed to sit down and come up with a plan.
First, did I really need ALL the albums, singles and all other recorded media? In my case, no. I wasn’t all too concerned with getting every last single. Most of the B-sides were on Join the Dots (with exception of the B-sides from the latest album), and I was only really interested in two of the live albums. Quite a few of their earlier releases were re-mastered and re-released. Three of the re-mastered albums were re-released in a deluxe pack with an additional CD with rare cuts, demo cuts and other extras. I decided that I would forgo the original release and go for the re-released. This narrowed down my list quite a bit.
Now if I went to Best Buy or Media Play and just bought all these albums at retail price, this would still be quite costly. I had to come up with another plan. Traditional retail stores are not your only option. There are many other places you can shop.
Amazon (www.amazon.com) can be a good place to start looking. Amazon sells new CD’s online, and they have a Marketplace for people to sell their used items as well. Before you search, make sure you have a budget in mind. How much are you willing to spend on a disc? If you find a CD for the right price, take a good look at the listing. What condition is it listed in? Does the seller mention any defects? Does the album have the all the cover art? If you want the CD to be complete, but the front cover art is missing, even at 50 cents it isn’t worth it. Check the seller’s feedback. After each transaction is completed, the buyer can rate the seller. If the seller has a bad rating or a history of bad service, it may be wise to choose another seller. Amazon charges a flat 2.49 shipping fee for each CD.
Another place to look is EBay. Just like with Amazon, take a close look at the listing. We once accidentally put a bid in on an incomplete Join the Dots Box set. The item description states that it is a four disc set and has track listing for all four discs, but if you look closely at the description, you discover the seller had briefly mentioned that the box had damage, the booklets were missing at it was only discs 2, 3, and 4. Granted, we won the item at a very fair price (even with it being incomplete), but I wanted to kill my boyfriend for not reading the fine print. EBay also has a feedback system. Make sure the seller is reputable before placing a bid. The big thing to remember with Ebay is to check the shipping rates. Unlike Amazon, Ebay lets the seller set the shipping rate. If the CD is under a dollar, but the shipping is $7.95, is it really worth it?
Sometimes the tired and true bargain hunt is still the way to go. Check out garage sales and flea markets. Sometimes people are basically giving away pretty rare albums. Some record stores (like Amoeba) have used CD sections. There are stores dedicated solely to second hand music/media. Check your yellow pages for second hand stores, make a list and set a side a day to rummage through. Places like Half Priced Books will have clearance sections where you can find CD’s for $1-$2 each. It just a matter of taking the time to see if they have what you want.
In the end it is very rewarding. You can replace you old records and tapes, or start your collection for the first time. As you search you may find other treasures you weren’t even looking for. The best part is, you won’t break the bank in the process.