Back around 2002, I sat down and began ripping all of my CDs to MP3. I worked on it during my downtime, on nights and weekends when nothing better was going on. It took me about a month to plow through several hundred discs, but I eventually finished. When I temporarily moved from Boston to NJ during my unemployment back in 2003, my CDs were boxed up for the move. They stayed that way. In fact, the boxes were in my parents basement until Corinna and I moved to our house in Watertown back in 2007. Since then they have remained in boxes in our basement.
For many years I continued to buy physical discs, immediately ripping them and placing them on a shelf or in a box. In the past year or two, I have effectively stopped buying CDs, instead opting to use download services such as iTunes, Bleep, Beatport and Amazon’s MP3 store (as well as directly from artists).
Back in 2002, MP3 files of 192Kbps seemed like a pretty reasonable compromise between audio quality and file size. But fast forwarding ten years, hearing the muted high and low end of those 192Kbps files, especially when I have several terabytes of storage in my house, was frustrating. I had thought about re-ripping all of my discs to a higher bit rate, but the task always seemed daunting. My collection of physical discs had ballooned to ~500 discs and it simply felt like it would take forever.
Back in September I was at the All Tomorrow’s Parties “I’ll Be Your Mirror” festival at Asbury Park with some friends. During some between-band chit-chat, I mentioned my regret of choosing 192Kbps and that I was considering finding a service that would re-rip all of them for me. DQ mentioned TaskRabbit, a service which pairs up people willing to do odd jobs (a.k.a. “Rabbits”) with people looking for help. This idea stuck in my head, and a few weekends ago when Corinna and I were doing some basement purging I decided that I would just do it. Some of my CDs were more than 20 years old, and waiting would only increase the chances of bit rot.
I posted my task on TaskRabbit, being as specific as possible. I decided to skip worrying about what the ‘right’ bitrate was and chose Apple Lossless format. A lossless codec cuts the file size in about half without losing any fidelity at all. I figured if I had 500 CDs each around 600MB, than the total size of the re-ripped CDs would be about 150GB, which really isn’t all that much these days. My existing music archive (with my old 192K rips in addition to any music I’ve bought digitally) totaled around 205GB at the time I started this project.
The hardest part of posting this task was trying to pick an upper cost. TaskRabbit asks you what your upper cost is, and then Rabbits bid on the task, TaskRabbit assigning you the one who came in lowest within some time constraints. I figured a reasonable price was $300 plus a maximum of $100 for expenses (I was asking the rabbit to not only rip my CDs, but also discard jewel cases and place them in sleeves that would be purchased by the rabbit).
In almost no time, TaskRabbit mailed me saying that a rabbit successfully bid on my job, and they came in at $255 (+ expenses). I was thrilled, as not only was someone interested in the job, but the whole shebang was going to cost me about 50 cents a disc!
Adam, the rabbit who won the bid, scheduled a time to come by my house to pick up the CDs. He guessed he would be done in about 3 weeks, which seemed reasonable. He swung by on 12/17 to pick everything up and was very professional. After a day or two he sent me a sample ripped file to make sure I was happy with the rip, metadata and file naming. Everything looked great, and so he started up full-steam.
A few days later I was on the train down to NJ for the holidays and wouldn’t be back until New Year’s Eve. While I was off relaxing with my family, Adam was keeping me posted with status updates or questions every few days. He asked what to do with the few live bootlegs that were in my collection. I told him to just set them aside and that I would handle them myself (since no metadata was available for them on CDDB). Soon after I returned to Boston, I heard from Adam that he was almost done and we scheduled a time on 1/8 for him to drop off the finished product. I was thrilled that it only took him 3 weeks, and when he arrived I saw that he took excellent care of everything, and seemingly had no trouble with my pretty specific requirements.
I decided it would be a good idea to do a bit of an inventory, to make sure no discs/rips slipped through the cracks. In doing so I found a 20 or so CDs that I couldn’t find rips for (even though they were organized and put into sleeves). I talked with Adam and he wasn’t sure what happened, but he offered to swing by and pick them up (even though I had already closed out the task and paid him).
Overall, this was a great experience. I now have all of my CDs ripped in a lossless format, and my CDs are organized and taking up much less space than they were before. Surprisingly, only one track on one CD wouldn’t rip due to damage. I guess I take pretty good care of my things. My new music collection is approximately 345GB. Furthermore, using TaskRabbit successfully on a huge task such as this one gives me confidence to use the service in the future for more odd jobs around the house.
Right now I’m trying to find a more permanent storage solution for my CDs, most of which are in sleeves but some of which are still in their original cases. I tried Snap-N-Store cases but they were pretty lousy. The compartments for discs weren’t wide enough, even for my discs with sleeves. I’m currently in the market for a solution to this problem, so if you have any ideas please let me know. I’m looking for something with a lid to keep the dust out.