Christmas is a great time for Sorting Out Stuff. In our house it's become a tradition to spend part of Boxing Day and the days after sifting through accumulated CDs, weeding out ones that we reckon we will never listen to again. This year we got rid of a heap of old VHS videos - it was as if the shelves were populated by bricks that wobble when you use them.
As for the CDs - the most astonishing thing is how much absolute crap is being produced. Discs with wonderfully designed cases, printed with contemporary patterns, laden with shiny photos, must have cost a good whack to make, arrived unsolicited from a very expensive PR company - and inside there's some guy playing anodyne twiddles on a synthesiser? The recording industry hasn't died at all: it's just mutated and is growing thousands of little arms like some weird prehistoric amoeba.
Whatever happened to that old-fashioned concept of quality control? The small companies run by well-informed enthusiasts and pros usually do apply such thinking. The big companies, plus some individuals with more money than sense, produce occasional gems, but also crap by the ton. Certain many-times-reissued recordings of mainstream repertoire played by third-rate contracted artists in the 1970s need occasionally to be heard by the higher echelons so that they can officially be sent to the home for retired donkeys.
At least you can exercise quality control in your own home. But where do old CDs go to die? Where is the CD cemetary? Is the path from shelf to Oxfam Shop to bin to landfill as short as I suspect? CDs don't biodegrade. Nor do their plastic cases (which are usually broken anyway). How sad that our rubbish tips are full of the things - and so many of them are, well, rubbish. At least with digital downloads it only takes one click to delete the lot.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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