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Music Bytes

Classical CDsAs a test to see how many writable DVDs I will need to use to write backup copies of all of my music, I wrote a script to create a byte-count inventory my Mp3 collection.

I rip all of my own Mp3s from CDs, and I use a fixed bit rate of 160 MB. This makes my Mp3s about 25% larger than most commerically-produced Mp3s. But, they sound better. And yes, I do still buy CDs. I do not shop at the iTunes store, and when I do shop on-line at Amazon, I buy actual CDs. As far as I can remember, I’ve only downloaded commercial Mp3s twice (both times legally): Bush’s Sixteen Stone as a free sample of some service, and Radiohead’s online-only album In Rainbows. (Months later, Radiohead issued the album on CD.)

For the RIAA’s benefit, I’ve sprinkled this page with photos of most of my “hard copies.” (I will confess, now that I think about it, to having downloaded Mp3s of a few live “bootleg” recordings (mostly of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Elvis Costello.) I do not make my Mp3s available for download. I’m too selfish to share.

In any case, my script tells me that over the past ten years or so, I’ve ripped 14,983 individual tracks (no wonder I’m tired)! These range in size from the Beatles’s “Her Majesty” at 17 seconds, to Shostakovich’s “The Execution of Stephan Razin” at 31 minutes and 39 seconds. [I checked myself, and I was wrong about both. A few of the individual tracks that make up TMBG's "Fingertips" are shorter than 17 seconds, and Neko Case's "Marais La Nuit"—which is a recording of chirping crickets used as a very long fadeout to the album Middle Cyclone—clocks in at 12 seconds longer than the Shostakovich piece.]

Without further ado, and for no useful purpose whatsoever, here is a list of my byte-hungriest “artists” (for organizational purposes, I categorize de-composers as artists):

The “Gigabyte Club”

4.1G Beethoven
3.9G Mozart
3.5G Haydn
2.2G Bach JS
3.3G Van Morrison
3.0G Bob Dylan
2.8G Elvis Costello
2.2G Shostakovich
1.8G Rachmaninov
1.3G Shakespeare
1.2G Tom Waits
1.1G Bruce Springsteen

Hmm. I’ve got more Bach CDs (about 60) than Beethoven (about 40), but I’ve ripped a higher percentage of the Beethoven (including multiple copies of each symphony, and the complete piano concertos, sonatas, and string quartets). Van Morrison edges Bob Dylan in the everything-other-than-”classical” category.

250 Megabytes and Above

996M Beatles     426M Talking Heads
962M Graham Parker     425M Barenaked Ladies
867M Mahler     424M George Harrison
864M Prokofiev     401M Wilco
837M Brahms     376M Kinks
743M Neil Young     356M Schumann
668M Handel     351M Bartok
643M Counting Crows     339M Richard Thompson
596M Tchaikovsky     335M R.E.M.
559M Sibelius     333M Clash
557M They Might Be Giants     288M Paul McCartney
515M Radiohead     288M Neko Case
508M Schubert     283M Mendelssohn
493M Ron Sexsmith     278M Nielsen
481M Nick Lowe     273M Warren Zevon
473M Lucinda Williams     268M John Lennon
442M Joni Mitchell     263M U2
431M Dvorak     258M Dire Straits

Lots of old school stuff there. I only count seven artists in there who are best-known for their work in the late 90s and/or post-2000 (Counting Crows, Ron Sexsmith, Lucinda Williams, TMBG, Radiohead, Wilco, and Neko Case). I’m still buying new music, but I’ve only two-or-three discs apiece by some of my favorite 21st-century artists (Belle and Sebastian, Badly Drawn Boy, Arcade Fire, Snow Patrol, etc).

The Beatles and ex-Beatles consume a little over two gigabytes combined, so they might deserve a special medal or something (how about MBEs?). Nice to see that “the quiet Beatle” leads the group.

Pop CDs

September 2010 update: Bought and ripped Graham Parker’s Imaginary Television: Parker joins the one gigabyte club!

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