Monday, December 24, 2007

Sound Unheard: 2007 in Music

When I started college, I decided that I was done with music. With buying it, anyway. All through high school, I worked downtown at city hall every day after the last bell, scanning maps of sewers. And all through high school, I spent almost every penny I made on CDs. After work, see, I'd walk past this record shop called Underground Sounds, and, well...you know the rest. On the bus home, I'd tear the plastic off and read the liner notes. In my closet, glassy cases clamored for space. When I left home, everything I didn't sell stayed behind. I just wanted to see if I could make do.

Two and a half years later, I'm here to report that it hasn't been easy. Mostly, I've just coasted on my high school favorites, watching with dismay as my iTunes collection becomes less and less relevant. I've bought a few songs, a few records, here and there. But I've really missed the blind excitement that came with ripping the plastic away and reading lyrics for future songs, sound unheard.

Fortunately, 2007 was the year when music made sense again, thanks to sites like last.fm, imeem, and emusic. Part of me still wishes I could spend dozens of dollars on plastic-wrapped CDs, but part of me is just astounded by how much music is out there to be had, and how easy it is to find it now.

After years of hearing murmurs about last.fm, I finally got on board this fall. And: wow! It didn't take long for me to realize that last.fm radio stations actually had better songs than my very own iTunes account. Last.fm introduced me to Bishop Allen, Voxtrot, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Incidentally, last.fm also introduced me to the mesmerizing and self-indulgent nature of personalized music widgets. See album quilt below:








Imeem. Well. Let's just say the music companies have caved. Since illegal is apparently the new normal, they're scrambling to get teenagers and *cough* college students to accept a framework they control. By signing on to a platform that lets anybody stream any song for free on demand. Uh...thank you, record companies? Anyway, since imeem is advertising-supported, it's a little bit of a hassle to click around it. Because, you know, the more clicks it takes to get from place to place, the more advertisements you have to sit through to get there. But it definitely delivers on the music front, and I've started using imeem to delve into bands that I find through last.fm.

Sidenote: I seem to remember actually paying for a little service called Rhapsody once upon a time, whose business model was scarily similar. Except instead of Free, it was Definitely Not Free. Hmm. Good luck, Rhapsody!

And emusic. I guess I signed up for emusic long, long ago, and then promptly forgot about it. Then a few days ago, I get a "please come back to us, we will give you 75 free songs!" message. Well! 75 free songs! Now that was a legitimately good offer. And wouldn't you know, it was an amazing feeling to cruise through the emusic site and recklessly click "Download All" on albums I'd never heard, take the plunge with songs I hadn't diligently researched, and seal the deal with songs I'd wistfully hoped would come up in my last.fm streams. On iTunes, even when I buy a song, the 99 cent barrier is enough to make me fret over how much utility I'll get per pop hook. Which is just ridiculous. And then there's the iTunes DRM, which I try just to not think about. On emusic, songs are DRM-free=awesome. Also? Instead of trying to measure utility per pop hook, I can actually just experience it. What a concept!

So now, here I am again. iTunes is full of songs I'll actually listen to. My head is full of music that I can't get out. And I'm full of excitement for this new year and the music it might bring. I'm so looking forward to the blind excitement of diving into my future, sound unheard.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

viva el blog! i know what you mean about giving up music; i did the same thing (although with a whole lot less thought behind it, i think). probably for the better, i think at least half of my music listening in high school was motivated by a desire to feel cooler/more indie than the people around me.

(and i love imeem... i'd heard of it, but never registered until now, and it's incredible!)

Annemarie said...

girl...

i can't wait to share with you all this stuff that patch put on my ipod. being less technologically savvy than you, I use the time-honored method of getting new music: having a much more knowledgeable friend foist 4-5 gigs of it on me. same as the old days, except much larger volume.