Hello interwebs, I’m a geek. I realised this with the Game of Thrones season 5 finale. Like I knew for a long time that had geeks qualities and could geek out on very specific things easily, but justifying why I didn’t feel guilty about posting spoilers really drove the point home. I was up at 3 AM on Monday morning because I wanted to geek out in real time and be spoiler proof.
The other thing that makes me believe I’m a geek is my intense sadness when the cooling fan on my old desktop PC blew while I was trying to salvage my extensive music collection. I’m young enough to believe that I shouldn’t have to pay for music, but I’m old enough to know the value of a well-curated music collection – which, in the age of uncapped data, is an almost extinct art.
In my lifetime I’ve witnessed the fall (and subsequent hipster resurrection) of vinyl, used pencils to rewind mixtapes, burnt CDs with Winamp and still get full use out of an iPod. I love music, but while my taste is eclectic, I take pride in surfing the fringes of hip hop to discover new artists who, to my mind, are forging new paths for the genre. These artists are fiercely independent and won’t be found on Spotify or Deezer‘s commercialised playlists. Hell not even supposed friend-of-the-artist Jay Z will have these kids on Tidal.
When my PC died it took with it easy access (all I need is an HDD enclosure) to rare samples of early Nicki Minaj and Childish Gambino freestyles and mixtapes, and albums by long since forgotten bands who counted me as their sole South African fan. Trawled the streaming services for remnants of my beloved favourite artists, but nothing. They are forever lost in a sea of mediocre Beyonce hits and lazy Drake lines.
I remember a time when my friends and I would spend hours sifting through music store inventories because whichever artist we were in to at the time was rumoured to feature on an obscure compilation. I remember the endless stop-and-rewind cycle of compiling the perfect mixtape of songs I really loved at the time. I also remember when pre-ordering and album came with an hour-long conversation with the guy behind the counter and I miss the time when that guy behind the music store counter could actually introduce me to something new because he actually took an interest in new music.
Collecting music allows me to learn everything I can about an artist either through the music or through the discussions between other fans in the forums and on message boards as I’m chasing a rare recording around the internet. The art of collecting is the art of information gathering. Talking to guys at a comic book store, chatting with a used car salesman or even listening to your grandparents tell the story behind the heirloom that they’re handing down to you.
Streaming services are amazing and very useful, but I place more value in geeking out on an artist and owning a physical (which in this instance confusingly means digital) copy of everything they’ve featured on. Streaming is just another way we’re cheapening life through convenience. If all your music comes through a streaming service, you’re only listening to what the commercial deals that keep the service active allows you to. You’re outsourcing joy. Where’s the fun in that? You may as well only listen to the radio because it’s the exact same thing.