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Robert Middleton

The 80-20 principle of listening to jazz albums

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Ever heard of the 80-20 principle?

It states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. And 20% of the results come from the other 80% of the actions. 

More or less. 

In jazz collections, I hypothesize that 80% of your jazz listening is from 20% of your albums. And the other 80% get just 20% of your listening time. 

More or less. 

For instance: I buy about 100 or so albums a year from the current year. 

And I'm lucky if I have 15 or 20 that I like enough to listen to over and over again. And the other 80 mostly get ignored after hearing them once or twice. 

The problem is that I have albums going back to the '50's. Thousands of 'em. And I know that some I will never listen to again in my lifetime. 

Is this true for you? Do you care? Does your unlistened-to-music miss you? 

Cheers, RM

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Robert,

Your theory sounds plausible. Speaking for myself, I think it's likely that the majority of my listening comes from a relatively small slice of my collection pie.

Then again, it's always enjoyable to (re)discover a disc that's been sitting on the shelf for years unplayed. That's part of the fun too.

Edited by HutchFan

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Have lots I'll never listen to again, but don't know exactly which ones in many cases.  Most of the ones I am sure I'm done with, I try to move on to a new home.

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1 hour ago, HutchFan said:

Then again, it's always enjoyable to (re)discover a disc that's been sitting on the shelf for years unplayed. That's part of the fun too.

Yeah, I keep discovering old stuff that I kinda missed the first time around. I listen to most of my jazz on iTunes through a pre-amp and amplifier, so my whole collection is at my fingertips. I create a lot of segmented playlists so I can easily get back to the music I enjoy the most. 

50 minutes ago, felser said:

Have lots I'll never listen to again, but don't know exactly which ones in many cases.  Most of the ones I am sure I'm done with, I try to move on to a new home.

Kinda wish I could get rid of more stuff. But I'm attached... Every once in awhile I get rid of something I just don't like. But everything else is on tap 24/7. 

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6 hours ago, Robert Middleton said:

Ever heard of the 80-20 principle?
It states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the actions. And 20% of the results come from the other 80% of the actions.
More or less. 
In jazz collections, I hypothesize that 80% of your jazz listening is from 20% of your albums. And the other 80% get just 20% of your listening time. 
More or less. 
For instance: I buy about 100 or so albums a year from the current year. 
And I'm lucky if I have 15 or 20 that I like enough to listen to over and over again. And the other 80 mostly get ignored after hearing them once or twice. 
The problem is that I have albums going back to the '50's. Thousands of 'em. And I know that some I will never listen to again in my lifetime. 
Is this true for you? Do you care? Does your unlistened-to-music miss you?

It is true in my case. But over time the 80 and 20% sections do shift. I.e. there are periods when I revisit items I have not listened to for a long (or even very long) time.
Yet there remain records that I am certain I will never listen to for the rest of my life. But do I know now which ones they are? No - so for the time being they are keepers (on the premise that it is nice to have the music ready to listen to when I feel like it). But at times I wonder what unlistened-to music I am missing out on. Though I am not one of the bookkeepers' mentality who runs checklists for listenting to music in a set row in order to "work off" what he has. So the unlistened-to music will have to wait until its time comes (which may come or not - but again: Do I know if it actually won't come? Not yet, I am afraid ...)

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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I would generally agree with that 80-20 principle, although I'm now in a phase of trying to listen to *different* stuff as much as possible. This will also help to thin the stacks.

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I am getting rid of tons of stuff I didn't listen anymore, keeping what I listen often and some stuff I like to own, tough I don't listen to it very often, so I guess I agree with the principle.

Edited by porcy62

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Considering that my very limited listening time is spent listening to newest stuff I am probably at 95:5 or worse.

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I don’t know that applies in my case because I’m always trying to pick out CDs I haven’t listened to in many years. 

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Well the theory is about returns on effort. It seems to mean that most returns come quite easily (on the first 20% of effort) but that the last 20% of returns requires a lot more. So it is easy to do things in a mainly OK fashion but a lot more effort to do them well.

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I had my iPod classic for Jazz expanded to 768 GB. I've filled it with all of my usual suspects as well as assorted other things that I was once enamored with or curious about. Shuffling by song, album, and artist has helped me to curate a collection (playlist) of tunes that I enjoy coming back to. I import as ALAC files, so I'm happy with the fidelity, the portability, and the options for listening. 18,000 tunes spanning 470 GB. Then again I have many times that over in CDs to also visit and revisit. A good problem to have.

So 80/20 seems reasonable but I'm working on changing that up.

As FZ said, "Without deviation from the norm progress is not possible."

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For me the ratio is probably close to 40 - 60, or even 30-70. I make a special effort to regularly go through my large CD collection to pull out things to play that I have not heard for quite some time. Also as I began collecting back in the 1950's. some things that I especially like have been played so frequently over the years that I tend to often put them aside so I can hear those recordings  played infrequently at best. 

Another factor is that up until the past couple of years I was buying a large number of new recordings or reissued CDs on a regular basis and played them most often. But I decided 2 or 3 years ago that I would stop buying new CDs except for the one or two a year that I "must" have. That has allowed me more opportunity to go back through my collection to listen to those that have been passed over.

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While I would agree that for any given 5 year period, 80% of my listening does probably come from 20% of my collection.

But looking back over the last 25 years, my interests have always been shifting, and so which 20% of my collection I was listening to the most has always been a moving target.

I'll get on a big late 60's and 1970's Japanese kick and HALF my listening will come from that corner of my collection for a 2-3 years.  Or I'll get on a big mid-to-late 60's German and middle-European kick, with a little eastern (former-)Soviet block thrown in for good measure) -- and that'll be HALF of everything I listen to for a couple years.

I used to listen to tons of Miles 15-25 years ago, but nowhere near as much any more.  Some here would surely accuse me of having blinders on to some areas of jazz (guilty as charged - for instance, my Monk and Mingus exploration has been practically nil, and my Coltrane collection is kind of shockingly thin, and always has).  But I often find one "new" (weird) old title that sends me down a rabbit hole trying to find more similar stuff, and then within a year or two I've got 20-25 albums that fit into some very small subgenre that I barely even knew existed 5 years before -- all the while, my Ellington exposure is still limited to about 15 titles (most from after 1960), which I do get around to spinning about once every 5-10 years.

So, yeah, the basic premise of 80/20 does apply to me, but my interests do move around over time.

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