The Gift of Music

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Even though I grew up with records, and then CDs, I have to say I love the convenience, the portability, and the space-saving quality of digital music. As a gift, though, it leaves something to be desired. My daughters are delighted to get iTunes gift cards for Christmas, and one of their colorful cards in a funny Christmas card is fine as a sort of auxiliary gift. But it just seems a little insubstantial and even impersonal if you’re exchanging gifts with someone and that’s all you’re giving them. (Psst. Here are some tips.)

This is the beauty of the CD box set; many of them are beautifully packaged, and are usually priced well below what you’d pay if you bought each of the CDs separately. There is no real reason for me to have The Glass Box, Nonesuch’s 10-CD retrospective of Philip Glass’s career: I have all those pieces on their original albums already. But what a splendid object it is – a perfect cube, each of the 4 sides and top bearing a different, well-known portrait of Glass by such iconic artists as Chuck Close (see below), Annie Leibovitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe. (I really oughta take the shrink wrap off though…)

Music makes a great holiday gift, even if it’s not a box set. It’s personal (I hope – you do choose music you think the recipient will like, right?), it’s long-lasting, and it’s cheap. And let’s face it, this holiday season, cheap is not a dirty word at all. But what do you if you’re looking to spend, say, $15 on someone, and you’re just not sure which CD might be the perfect one? Here, actually, digital music can be a big help. Last year, I bought 15 songs from iTunes that I knew my wife would like (yes, I spent $15 on her Christmas present. I thought of stopping at $5 or $10, but I’m an incurable romantic; plus she’s worth it.), burned them onto a CD, and printed up a CD cover comprised of the cover art from the various artists involved. (All of which iTunes is able to do for you.) She got the files, but she also got something that could be wrapped and stuck under the tree. I like to think of it as a personalized CD box set, except it’s a set of 1.

You can be creative, or you can take advantage of other people’s creativity – a lot of box sets are compiled by theme or genre, instead of by artist. And a lot of these are on the gift lists of our guests today. They make potentially great gifts, and are relatively inexpensive. But you probably have some ideas of your own. Don’t be a grinch – share them with us here.

Check out Soundcheck's 'Gift Guide for Music Fans - $50 or Less'

[iTunes card: flickr/kosabe]